Strong support to carry on remote FtP hearings, says GPhC
Four-fifths of respondents to a GPhC consultation back proposals to keep holding remote fitness to practice hearings indefinitely, the regulator has said.
In papers published ahead of its May 12 council meeting, the GPhC revealed that 78 per cent of 481 responses received between November and February expressed support for continuing to hold remote hearings “where it is fair and practical to do so”. The regulator began holding remote hearings in March 2020 and currently holds a mixture of video and face-to-face hearings.
A survey of members of the public pointed to even stronger support (91 per cent), with most agreeing that remote hearings work at least as well as those held in person.
Those in support of the proposals cited a number of possible advantages, including the potential to speed up FtP timelines – a chronic issue for the GPhC, which consistently fails to meet targets in this area – and greater convenience for participants through not having to travel to the regulator’s Canary Wharf headquarters, as well as a less intimidating environment.
It was also felt that remote hearings would make it easier for women who are pregnant or on maternity leave to engage with the process.
However, a number of concerns were also raised, such as the risk of technology failing or the fact that some participants may not have the required equipment or an appropriate home setting.
Others said a remote setting may feel “impersonal and isolating” and could “impede effective communication”.
There were some reservations even among those who supported the overall proposals. Around half of all respondents said that remote hearings are not suitable for all cases, and that the “level of seriousness and complexity” must be considered before deciding on the manner of hearing, as well as individual preferences and the potential impact on people with certain physical impairments.
But overall, a larger share of respondents said that continued remote hearings will have a positive effect on patients and registrants than those who said it would have a mixed or negative effect.
The GPhC said it plans to review its existing policy in light of the feedback received through the consultation process and will out together a fresh guidance document to be considered at its September council meeting.
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