The duty of healthcare professionals to self-report convictions and cautions
This is part of our series of briefings on the Fitness to Practise investigations process.
Probity allegations are amongst the more serious allegations which the regulators must consider. They sometimes arise in relation to a Registrant’s failure to meet their obligation to notify the regulator of an event such as a caution or conviction. In some of those cases, the allegedly dishonest failure to declare those matters to the Regulator becomes a significantly more serious concern than the conviction or caution.
The regulators’ processes vary, but it is common for them to seek a declaration from Registrants at the time of their annual renewal to the effect that they have not been the subject of any convictions or cautions. However, that is intended to function as something of a safety net for the regulators as the respective codes of conduct require Registrants to notify their regulator upon certain events occurring. Typical triggers include being charged with a criminal offence, conviction or acceptance of a caution, regardless of where in the world that happens. It may also include other types of disposals in the criminal justice system and the obligation is typically to notify the regulator “without delay”, “as soon as possible” or “immediately” after the triggering event.
For example Good Medical Practice states:
“You must tell us without delay if, anywhere in the world:
- you have accepted a caution from the police or been criticised by an official inquiry
- you have been charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence
- another professional body has made a finding against your registration as a result of fitness to practise procedures.”
Guidance issued by some of the regulators specifically excludes certain criminal disposals from the obligation. For example, the GDC does not require notifications of fixed penalty notices for road traffic offences. As details vary between regulators, it is crucial to review the relevant current guidance from your regulator.
Annual renewal of registration
Registrants should always have regard to the declarations which they make on annual renewal which may include a commitment to notify the regulator if you receive any cautions or convictions in the future.
You should not assume that some other authority will notify your regulator. That might well happen, but even so, the obligation to notify falls on the Registrant personally. Similar requirements apply to Performers on NHS Performers Lists and many contracts of employment will impose a contractual obligation to notify your employer.
Declarations at the time of First Registration
The requirement to declare existing convictions or cautions at the time of first seeking registration is complicated by the scheme by which certain convictions are ‘filtered’ and therefore do not need to be declared. However, the filtering regime only applies to convictions or cautions once they have reached a particular age and so the regime does not affect the obligation to disclose at the time of the caution or conviction.
The take home message
You should familiarise yourself with the relevant provisions of your regulator’s code in relation to the obligations to notify the regulator and read any supplemental guidance which your regulator produces.
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.