Recent research published by the PSA concludes that Case Examiner accepted outcomes can be detrimental to fairness in certain cases.

The research commissioned by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) looked at the two contrasting models, key differences between them and how biases might affect the quality of decision-making.

Case Examiner accepted outcomes

Under this process, Case Examiners can decide that the facts of a case are likely to be found proved by a panel, that the panel are also likely to find that the facts amount to misconduct and that the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. The case examiners can then invite the registrant to accept a sanction which addresses the impairment without the matter being heard in public by a panel.

The main problems with accepted outcomes relate to:

  • Its consensual nature;
  • Decisions are made on the papers;
  • Decisions are reached individually rather than through panel deliberations; and
  • Decisions are made in private.

Conclusions

That in determining what type of cases may be appropriate for each model a starting point may be to focus on:

  1. how quickly the decision needs to be made;
  2. how much information is missing or how much ambiguity exists in the evidence;
  3. how much interaction is needed with the registrant;
  4. how much documentation will need to be analysed to reach the decision; and,
  5. the extent to which specific cultural characteristics will be relevant to the decisions to be made.

“Accepted outcomes” – why does it matter?

The Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) consultation on reforms to fitness to practise include proposals that “regulators should have broadly equivalent powers to maintain a level of consistency and effective public protection”.

Amongst these “broadly equivalent powers” are plans to introduce a standard three step fitness to practise process.

Insofar as these proposals relate to Case Examiners, the DHSC is proposing to give Case Examiners the “full suite of measures available (including applying conditions to a registrant’s practice, suspending their registration, or removing the registrant from the register) with which they can conclude a case but only through an accepted disposal.”

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