The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy


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Legal aid - Honesty is the best policy

Joanna Howard, an employment lawyer with Thompsons Solicitors, looks at the rights  and wrongs of being honest

The Health Professions Council’s (HPC) current Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics state that physiotherapists must behave with honesty and integrity and ensure their behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in them or the profession.

It is not uncommon for allegations before a practice committee of the HPC to include an allegation of dishonesty against a registrant.  

The factual basis for an allegation of dishonesty can relate to any aspect of a physiotherapist’s practice, such as falsely invoicing service users or insurance companies, timesheet errors, falsely claiming sick pay, and providing false references, as well as behaviour outside of practice, such as falsely claiming welfare benefits.

For employed physiotherapists, the allegation of dishonesty will often have led their employer to invoke their disciplinary procedure and even dismissal.  

The practice committee will determine, according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people, whether what was done was dishonest. If it was dishonest then the practice committee will consider whether the registrant must have realised that what he or she was doing was by those standards dishonest.

As in all HPC professional conduct cases, the standard to which the allegations have to be proved is the civil standard of the balance of probabilities.

Where an allegation of dishonesty is well founded, it will inevitably amount to misconduct as such behaviour is clearly in breach of the HPC Standards. More often than not in cases involving allegations of dishonesty, the registrant’s fitness to practise will be found to be impaired and the practice committee will go on to consider the most appropriate and proportionate sanction.    

The HPC’s indicative sanctions policy states that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish. A sanction is only to be imposed to protect the public or to maintain confidence in the profession and the HPC’s regulatory process.  

A registrant should demonstrate that he or she has gained true insight into the seriousness of his or her actions and the effect of them on the public confidence in the profession. Early admissions, remorse and efforts to repair the damage caused will be helpful. The HPC will have regard to whether the dishonesty was deliberate sustained conduct or a one-off lack of judgement.

Findings of impairment of fitness to practise based on allegations of dishonesty are generally seen by the HPC as being too serious to warrant no further action or a caution.  

Thompsons Solicitors advises the CSP on professional conduct cases


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