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ARC 2007 - Innocent until proven guilty

The Society was urged to lobby the Health Professions Council to change its complaints procedure so that names and precise details of any accusations against practitioners are not made public until one month before a hearing.

Proposing the motion, Sue England from the Clinical Interest Groups Liaison Committee, said the HPC's procedure meant the names of physiotherapists and details of complaints are on the HPC's website for many months before a case is heard. She said the Human Rights Act requires that both clinician and complainant should be treated equally and fairly. 'We do not consider that the present HPC complaints procedure affords this to the physiotherapist and would move to have this procedure altered by the HPC,' she said. Other professional bodies such as the General Medical Council do not publish personal details until one month before the hearing date, Ms England said. 'We want the HPC to do something similar.'

Alison Skinner said the considerable time-lapse between the allegation being publicised on the HPC website and the hearing meant the registrant was 'subject to adverse publicity which could have a disastrous effect on a career'. Seconding the motion, Sharon Greensill, representing Chartered Physiotherapists in Mental Healthcare, felt that details should not be made public if there was no danger to the health of a patient.

'Many cases on the (HPC) website do not have a hearing date and in one case references to a registrant's mental health were on the website,' she said. Margaret McDowell opposed the motion on the grounds that putting the details into the public domain might bring other members of the public forward with evidence. However, Holly Laws said that in many cases even where a complaint was thrown out, the publicity around the allegations carried more weight than the not guilty verdict.   Motion 36 was carried.

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