Fitness to Practice Policy and Procedure
Students enrolled on courses leading to a professional qualification may have responsibilities over and above those of other students at the University. This particularly applies to any professional Codes of Conduct that students are required to comply with whilst undertaking their training.
Examples of professional courses at the University include the following -
• Social Work
• CIPD Accounting and Law
• Courses accredited by the Training & Development Agency for Schools
A student’s alleged misconduct may be considered to be contrary to behavioural expectations required by the courses professional code. In such circumstances consideration must be given to the possibility that they could put patients/clients/the public or other students or staff at risk. A students Fitness to Practise is called into question when their conduct, health or competence raises a serious or persistent cause for concern about their ability or suitability to continue on a course.
This is not an exhaustive list but indicates areas of concern that may call into question whether a student is fit to practise.
• Criminal conviction Caution, reprimand or penalty notice of disorder or equivalent relating to theft, financial fraud, possession of illegal substances, creating or obtaining child pornography, child abuse or any other abuse.
• Drug or alcohol misuse Driving with excess alcohol or under the influence of drugs, alcohol consumption that affects work or the work environment, misusing therapeutic or illicit drugs, possessing or dealing illegal drugs, even if there are no legal proceedings.
• Aggressive, violent or threatening behaviour Assault, sexual assault, physical violence, bullying, verbal abuse.
• Persistent inappropriate attitude or behaviour Lack of commitment to academic work, neglect of administrative tasks, poor time management, infrequent or non-attendance, poor communication, failure to accept or follow educational advice, failure to follow health and safety requirements or failure to follow the rules and regulations of the School or University.
• Academic misconduct – Cheating in examination, plagiarising or colluding with other students.
• Dishonesty or fraud Dishonesty outside the professional role, falsifying research, falsifying qualifications, misrepresentation, financial fraud, fraudulent CV’s or other documents or students signing in for other students to represent attendance.
• Unprofessional behaviour or attitude Breach of confidentially, sexual, racial or other forms of harassment, failure to observe appropriate boundaries in behaviour, persistent rudeness, bullying, unlawful discrimination and potentially inappropriate use of social networking sites.
• Health concerns and lack of insight or management of these concerns Failure to seek appropriate medical treatment or other support, failure to follow medical advice or care plans, including monitoring and reviews, in relation to maintaining fitness to practise. Failure to recognise limits and abilities or lack of insight into health concerns, treatment resistant condition which might impair fitness to practise.
There is a fundamental issue surrounding confidentiality. The normal rules must be challenged where failure to discuss information about a student may expose a patient, or others to risk of death or serious harm. In such circumstances information should be disclosed promptly to an appropriate person.
Where possible the consent of the student should be sought before any such disclosure is made. If consent is withheld but the circumstances require disclosure, the student should be informed of the action that is being taken and the reason for it.
When a personal tutor or counsellor has serious concerns about the student having continued access to vulnerable groups, such as patients, they should be advised to pass the information to the student’s Dean of Faculty.
(Health and Social Care Act 2008)
This policy and procedure is also subject to the (new) requirements of the Independent Safeguarding Authority and recognises the University’s duty to share information under the Vetting & Barring Scheme.
On receipt of information regarding any area of concern the Dean of the Faculty (or designated deputy) will instigate an investigation. The purpose of the initial investigation is to decide whether there is a case to answer as to whether a student’s fitness to practise is impaired. The initial investigation must be proportionate, weighing up the interests of patients/clients/ the public and the requirements of the relevant professional body, against those of the student.
It is important to consider at this stage whether the behaviour is better dealt with through a means of student support rather than through a formal panel hearing. A full written record should be kept of the investigation and decision made. The investigator should not be a member of the Fitness to Practise Panel.
In particular Academic Faculties of the University a “Suitability Panel” may be convened to conduct the initial investigation. If it is considered that there is a case to answer the Suitability panel will refer the case directly to a University Fitness to Practise Panel.
The student will be informed of the investigation and may be suspended from the whole or any part of the course pending completion of the investigation.
The student will be afforded the opportunity to state their case as part of the investigation.
Investigations of a serious nature, involving other public and professional bodies, may take an extended period of time to complete. The University, in these circumstances, will undertake to keep the student informed and updated on the progress of the investigation at regular intervals.
The purpose of the panel is to consider formally whether a student is fit to practice, and what sanctions, if any, should be imposed on a student.
Panels must act in a proportionate way by weighing the interests of patients/clients and the public against those of the student.
Any mitigating factors must be considered by the panel when it is deciding on the appropriate outcome. The civil standard of proof should be applied i.e. the facts must be found proven on the balance of probabilities.
The panel must give reasons for its decision and specify any time frame on conditions that may apply. It must issue a written determination and indicate whether the outcome of the hearing must be declared to the Professional Body.
The panel must ensure that any warning or sanction is proportionate to the behaviour found proved, and that it will deal effectively with the fitness to practise concerns.
On receipt of information/evidence from the Faculty and a request from the Dean of the Faculty that the matter should be referred to a Fitness to Practise hearing the Conduct and Appeals Unit will set up the hearing.
In determining the panels composition due regard will be paid to the need to ensure that members of the panel are impartial and have not be involved in prior investigation of the students case.
The panel will include:
• A senior member of academic staff from the Faculty/department to which the student belongs.
• A senior member of academic staff from outside of the Faculty to which the student belongs.
• A representative of the professional discipline, in which the student is undertaking a practice placement. This representative shall have had no direct involvement in any prior proceeding with the student.
At least seven working days before the hearing the panel and the student will receive copies of the information which will be considered by the panel.
The student will normally be permitted to be present throughout the hearing and may be represented by an adviser/friend.
Should the student fail to attend and to offer no valid reason for their absence then the hearing will be conducted in their absence.
The Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit will attend in an advisory capacity.
A note taker from the Conduct and Appeals Unit will attend.
The Dean of the Faculty in which the student studies will appoint a member of staff to present the grounds for concern.
Members of the panel may ask questions of any of the parties. The panel may ask for additional enquiries to be undertaken or may call for additional witnesses to attend. It may adjourn the proceedings if necessary.
Upon reaching its conclusion the panel will issue a report setting out the reasons for the its decision and specify any time frame or conditions that may apply. It must issue a written determination and indicate whether the outcome of the hearing must be declared to the Professional Body.
This report should be sent to the student and the Dean of the Faculty within five working days.
Possible outcomes include:
• The student receives no warning or sanction
• The student receives a warning as there is evidence of misconduct but the student’s fitness to practice is not impaired.
• The student’s fitness to practice is judged to be impaired and they receive a sanction. These can be -
Conditions or undertakings
Suspension from the course of study
Expulsion from the course of study
They may be subject to a Fitness to Practise procedure if they later return to complete their studies.
Warning and sanctions will remain on a student’s record until they complete their programme of study.
Pharmacy students must declare sanctions to the Regulatory Body for Pharmacy when applying for pre-registration and applying to register as a pharmacist.
The Regulatory Body for Pharmacy must be informed by the University of any sanctions it imposes.
Those who receive a warning or sanction, short of being expelled, should be monitored. If they are in their early stages of their course it may be appropriate to ask them to reflect on the fitness to practise as least once a year.
It must be made clear to a student who receives a warning or a sanction why they have received it, its intended purpose, its expected duration and whether or when their fitness to practise will be considered again in a formal hearing.
A student may appeal against a decision of a Fitness to Practise Panel.
Grounds for appeal are limited to:
• Procedural irregularity at the Fitness to Practise Panel hearing; and
• New and relevant evidence which could not have been made available at Fitness to Practise Panel hearing
• That the severity of the penalty imposed was, in the circumstances, unreasonable and/or disproportionate.
An appeal should be addressed to the Conduct and Appeals Unit who will, if appropriate convene an appeals panel.
All appeals must be made, no later than 20 working days after the date on which the outcome was notified to the student.
Appeals should be made in writing to:
The Conduct and Appeals Unit
University of Wolverhampton
Camp Street Molineux
• Academic appeals
• Student conduct
• Student disciplinary procedure
Undergraduate and Postgraduate Regulations:
Available at - www.wlv.ac.uk/polsregs
Applicants or others whose enrolment has not been fully confirmed (for example – having not satisfied the pre-requisite checks for some professional courses) have no recourse to this policy.
• General Teaching Council for England – Code of Conduct and Practise for Teachers. www.gtce.org.uk/teachers/thecode/fulltext
• Health Professions Council (Fitness to Practise Process) www.hpc-uk.org
• The British Psychological Society (Code of Ethics & Conduct) www.bps.org.uk
• Nursing & Midwifery Council – Guidance on professional conduct for nursing & midwifery students - http://www.nmc-uk.org/Students/Guidance-for-students
• The General Social Care Council (Suitability for Social Work) https://www.scie.org.uk/workforce/files/CodesofPracticeforSocialCareWorkers.pdf?res=true
• The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; Guidance on Student Fitness to Practise Procedures - https://www.pharmacyregulation.org/standards
These are not exhaustive lists
The University of Wolverhampton Students’ Union offers independent, confidential and impartial advice to students. Students may seek advice and representation by contacting the Students’ Union directly.
|Version||Approved Date||Review Date||Author/Owner||Approved By|
|3||21 June 2010||21 June 2012||Conduct & Appeals Unit,