Part D: Procedure for dealing with allegations of Professional Misconduct or Unsuitability (Fitness to Practise)
1. When this procedure applies
1.1. This procedure may be used if you:
1.1.1. are registered on a programme leading to professional registration/accreditation (for example, in the Schools of Education and Lifelong Learning, Health Sciences, Norwich Medical School, Pharmacy, and Social Work); or
1.1.2. maintain accreditation by a professional, statutory and regulatory body (PSRB) while registered on any professional degree programme such as a taught doctorate at the Norwich Medical School or the School of Education and Lifelong Learning
1.2. In any case where there is a conflict between this Procedure under Part D and the requirements of a professional, statutory and regulatory body, the latter shall take precedence.
2. Making an allegation
2.1. Allegations against you of professional misconduct and/or professional unsuitability must be made in writing to the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee (or Fitness to Practise Lead) at the School offering the professional programme of study concerned, or via a Cause for Concern Form. A copy of the allegations must also be sent to your Head of School.
2.2. On receipt of the allegation(s), the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee (or Fitness to Practise Lead) must give you details of the allegation(s) or report of concerns as soon as possible. These details must be sufficient for you to understand the nature of the allegations or concerns and the context in which they have arisen.
2.3. It must be borne in mind that an allegation of professional misconduct and/or professional unsuitability is a serious and potentially defamatory one. Consequently it is essential that the proceedings should be conducted on a basis of strict confidentiality.
3. Considering the allegations
3.1. On receipt of a written allegation or a report of inappropriate behaviour/conduct, the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee (or the Fitness to Practise Lead) shall take the following preliminary steps:
3.1.1. if a very serious incident had been reported, inform the Head of School without delay, so that the Head of School can consider the safeguarding implications and in particular whether it is necessary for there to be an immediate suspension from studies/placement in accordance with the procedure set out in Part E of these University Disciplinary and Investigative Procedures and Powers.
3.1.2. talk to you as soon as possible if the allegation(s) concern incident(s) in a setting in which you are also employed as a practitioner or member of staff, in order to ascertain whether your employer is aware of the allegation(s).
3.1.3. consider if there is a Fitness for Study issue that may explain your alleged behaviour/conduct.
Guidance: In complex cases, the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee (or Fitness to Practise Lead) is advised to contact the Chair of the University’s Senate Student Discipline Committee for advice and guidance.
4. Decision by the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee or Fitness to Practise Lead
4.1. The Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee or Fitness to Practise Lead shall then:
4.1.1. determine that there are no Fitness to Practise concerns, in which case no records shall be retained unless the School is required to do so by Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body requirements; or
4.1.2. refer the issues to your adviser or supervisor, with an email of instructions or a support plan that may help to address the issues identified; or
4.1.3. refer the issues to a senior member of academic staff such as the senior adviser or course director, with an email of instructions and/or request for a meeting to be held with you; or
4.1.4. instruct you to attend a meeting with the full Fitness to Practise Committee or a specially convened Panel; or
4.1.5. determine that the matter should proceed straight to Senate Student Discipline Committee and not proceed to a hearing in the School; or
4.1.6. recommend to the Head of the School that your alleged misconduct should not be considered under General Regulation 14 but should proceed under one of the other General Regulations instead.
Guidance: If recommending disciplinary action under one of the other General Regulations, the Chair should enclose appropriate evidence (e.g. record of unsatisfactory or poor attendance that have shown no significant improvement).
5. Complex cases
5.1. In complex cases, the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee (or Fitness to Practise Lead) may recommend to the Head of School that an Investigating Officer be appointed immediately, before a meeting as mentioned in 4.1.4 above is held.
5.2. The Investigating Officer shall assemble all the information relevant to the case.
5.3. The Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee/Fitness to Practise Lead shall, in consultation with the Head of School and Investigating Officer, determine:
5.3.1. a realistic timescale for the relevant information to be collected and for the Investigating Officer to complete his/her report. The Chair/Lead must inform you of the agreed timescale in writing, and provide updates as to any progress/delays thereafter.
5.3.2. whether the Fitness to Practise Committee or Panel should seek the views of external consultants/practitioners from the relevant professional body, and contact the relevant external bodies if required.
5.4. On receipt of the Investigating Officer’s report, a meeting of the Fitness to Practise Committee or Panel should meet within 10 working days.
Guidance: The investigation and write-up of the Investigating Officer’s report will normally take up to 30 working days.
6. Medical evidence
6.1. Prior to its meeting with you, the Fitness to Practise Committee or Panel may instruct you to go for an occupational health or other specialised medical assessment.
6.2. Any report from the occupational health or medical assessment shall be made available to the Fitness to Practise Committee or Panel and you at least five working days prior to the meeting.
7. Meeting of the School’s Fitness to Practise Committee/Panel
7.1. Where a full Fitness to Practise meeting with you under 4.1.4 is required, you must be:
7.1.1. informed in writing of the allegation(s)/concerns made, no later than 5 working days before the meeting; and
7.1.2. invited to submit a statement including, where relevant, any extenuating circumstances, no later than 2 working days before meeting; and
7.1.3. reminded that you can seek the independent support of the Student Union Advice Centre; and
7.1.4. advised that you can be accompanied to the meeting by a Companion who shall not be a legal representative and must have no connection with the allegations and therefore no material interest in the matter.
7.2. The Fitness to Practise Committee shall decide whether, on the balance of probabilities, you have breached Regulation 14.
7.3. The outcome of the decision of the full Fitness to Practise Committee shall be one of the following:
7.3.1. that there are no fitness to practise concerns in that you have not breached Regulation 14; or
7.3.2. that no further action is required but you are warned of the consequences of repeating the conduct/behaviour that gave rise to the allegation(s)/concerns. Your Adviser may also be asked to provide guidance and support to help address the issues identified; or
7.3.3. referral to the University’s Fitness to Study procedure; or
7.3.4. referral to other support services such as Student Support Services, or the Student Union Advice Centre, so that you can be provided with appropriate guidance and support; or
7.3.5. a recommendation to the Head of the School that a formal warning be recorded on your file. In the event that you continue to demonstrate conduct/behaviour that generates Fitness to Practise concerns, the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee and the Head of School shall consider whether your case should be referred to the University’s Senate Student Discipline Committee (SSDC) for consideration; or
7.3.6. a recommendation to the Head of the School that your case should be referred for consideration under General Regulation 14 by the University’s Senate Student Discipline Committee (SSDC). In its referral, the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee shall set out the findings and conclusions of the Committee; or
7.3.7. where your programme of study has a requirement to pass a Fitness to Practise module or its equivalent, the Fitness to Practise Committee may resolve that you have not met the professional standards/expectations of the programme of study and shall not be permitted to progress to the next stage of study.
Guidance: Referrals to Senate Student Discipline Committee
Your attention is drawn to Part F: Senate Student Discipline Committee for information about the process that should be followed. The Head of School must submit to the Secretary of the Senate Student Discipline Committee the evidence, including the report of any Investigating Officer and the findings of any Fitness to Practise Committee/Panel on which the School wishes to rely. The Head of School may also nominate staff/external contacts to be witnesses, to provide further information at the meeting. All witnesses must have some relevance to the case and for each witness proposed, a brief supporting statement must be provided by the Head.
It is expected the presenter of the School’s case shall be either the Head of School or the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee/Lead.