Advice line: the complaints process

Donna Steele describes the stressful legal process that can result when a complaint is made about a member

As a senior negotiating officer, my job is to assist members in responding to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) when it investigates a complaint about their fitness to practise. Often the complaint is about poor patient record-keeping. 
The HCPC examines the registrant’s fitness to practice and looks into why, if he or she was having difficulties, they failed to resolve them. If the HCPC decides the complaint has merit, it refers the registrant to a formal hearing in front of a panel. 
The panel hearing is a formal legal process and extremely stressful for any physiotherapist who has to go through it. If you were to be cross-examined, for example, the HCPC barrister would be meticulous in exploring and questioning every incident where notes were not completed, or judged inadequately recorded. If you failed to show insight into why this has happened, you would face conditions on your practice and possible suspension of up to a year (with another panel hearing at the end of it). You could even be struck off the register.  
Members often tell me they didn’t appreciate (until too late) how important keeping records was in the scheme of things. They will say they often felt it was a choice between staying on top of seeing patients and completing what they had thought – wrongly – was just mundane administration. 
The CSP’s workplace campaign, Pinpoint the Pressure, has confirmed that many of you struggle to get note-keeping up to date, as clinical pressures do not allow sufficient time for administrative duties.
While it’s tempting to consider taking patients’ notes home to catch up, this is not acceptable practice. There are important data protection issues to be aware of. If you find that you’re not getting adequate time at work to complete your notes, then talk to your health and safety rep or steward.
If you know that you have been cutting corners on your note-keeping, I strongly urge you to reflect and read our advice sheet Take Control of Workloads: Why you need to do your patient notes in work time and our guidance on quality standards
  • Donna Steele is the CSP’s senior negotiating officer and health and safety officer
Donna Steele, CSP’s senior negotiating officer and health and safety officer

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