If you study a course which leads directly to a professional qualification such as Speech and Language Therapy, Youth Work and Community Development, Biomedical Sciences, Physician Associate, Midwifery, Social Work, Pharmacy, Audiology or Nursing, there is an additional requirement under the ‘Fitness to Practise’ rules. Because the profession you wish to enter has a code of conduct for its members, this also extends to students wishing to enter the profession.
If your conduct causes concern that you may not be fit to practise in your chosen profession, an investigation may be carried out by the University. You should ensure that you read your course handbook and familiarise yourself with any policy that applies to your course.
How will I know if I am being investigated?
You would be informed in writing by the University and have the opportunity to seek advice and representation if an investigation arises. It is advisable to contact DSU Advice as soon as you receive a letter about this.
In due course, there will be an opportunity to meet the appointed investigator, answer questions and give evidence. If the investigation finds significant reason to proceed, the matter is referred to a Fitness to Practise Panel Hearing.
The University's general regulations covers Fitness to Practise in the full disciplinary procedure and the annexe which includes the fitness to practice procedure in Annexe 6
The University's Fitness to Practise procedure can also be viewed here.
Professional Codes of Conduct
Below, you will find a link to the relevant code of conduct for your course. These are the standards you will be assessed against during the Fitness to Practise procedure as well as the University's own regulations.
Nursing and Midwifery Council
Health & Care Professionals Council
General Pharmaceutical Council
What happens to my studies if I'm suspended and being investigated?
It is rare that students are suspended completely from their entire course but if you are, this means that your registration as a student is put on hold and you will not be able to attend any lectures, enter into any University building (other than to use the Advice Centre at the Students’ Union), contact any academic staff or use any University facilities.
It is far more likely that your suspension will apply to the practise element of your course only i.e. your placements. Therefore you are likely to be able to attend your lectures & seminars and have support from your personal tutor but you will not be able to attend any exisiting or new placements whilst the investigation is on-going.
Your suspension will be reviewed every 4 weeks or when new evidence is produced.
If your suspension is in place for longer than 14 days, you have the right to appeal in writing to the Vice-Chancellor.
Hints at writing a statement
You will be asked to write a statement as part of the investigation process and this will also be essential if the matter goes to a hearing.
If the allegations made against you are in fact correct, then the first thing within your statement is to acknowledge this and apologise. Remember confidentiality still applies so you must not use names of patients or service users. It is also very important to reflect on your actions. If the allegations are not correct, then the onus will be on you to prove this.
Explain what happened in full and any mitigating circumstances (if the allegations are correct). The University will be assessing if you are fit to practice so you need to show reflection and that you understand the code of conduct. You need to be able to relate their concerns with the code of conduct and either show how you did not breach it or if you did reassure them it will not happen again. Their primary concern is patients' or service users’ safety.
End by explaining how important your course is to you and any plans you have for the future.
You can provide character references from employers, family and friends as evidence that you did not do it or that is was an out of character thing to do. However you must not tell people (other than your closest relatives), you are undergoing a fitness to practise investigation as this will breach confidentiality.
If you have mitigating circumstances that you also need to provide evidence of this.
DSU Advice can check your statement and represent you at any meetings or hearings.
Examples of mitigation
• Serious illness or death of a member of the immediate family; normally a parent or guardian, child, brother, sister, spouse or partner.
• An episode of a serious debilitating illness involving an authorised absence from study of at least three weeks, for example to undertake a course of chemotherapy.
• A serious accident or acute illness occurring immediately before or at the time of the assessments concerned.
• Other unforeseen circumstances, of equivalent weight, that have seriously disrupted the ability to study, for example the need to care for a very ill child over a number of weeks
Mitigation constitutes anything that may have affected your judgment at the time. These are not excuses but an explanation as to why you acted out of character and evidence that when you are not under this stress, it will not happen again.
Outcomes from a Fitness to Practise hearing
The outcomes can range from being; · permitted to continue on the course, sometimes with closer supervision for a period · required to repeat part of the course · referred for an Occupational Health assessment (if appropriate) · recommended to interrupt with conditions on resuming · suspended for a defined period with conditions on resuming · terminated from the course as unfit to practice.
Right of Appeal
If you are unhappy with the outcome from any hearing, then you have will have the right of appeal but only on limited grounds. These are -
21.1 There is new and relevant evidence which the student was demonstrably and for the most exceptional reasons unable to present at the Disciplinary Hearing or Provost’s Hearing or during a Faculty fitness to practise investigation. This may include evidence in mitigation.
Such new evidence must be submitted with the student’s written notice of appeal or, if it is not possible to include the evidence at the time the notice is submitted, the notice must be accompanied by a note explaining the evidence the student wishes to submit.
21.2 The Disciplinary Committee, Provost or Faculty fitness to practise investigation did not comply with its stated procedures.
21.3 The penalty made was too severe or was inappropriate or disproportionate to the breach of the Disciplinary Code or fitness to practice standards.
The appeal must be in writing, stating clearly the specific grounds listed above on which you want to appeal, providing appropriate evidence. This notice of appeal must reach the Clerk to the Disciplinary Appeals Committee within 14 days of the receiving your outcome letter. They are based in the Student Gateway, Gateway House.
Effects on Graduating and Funding
Depending on how long you have been suspended for, you may not be able to graduate on time as you may have missed key placements which you need to complete. If you have missed too much of your studies, you may have to repeat the year and therefore your graduation will be delayed. The outcome of the hearing may also be that you have to repeat part of the programme and therefore your graduation will be delayed.
If you need to repeat part of your course, your student funding may be affected.
Undergraduate students funded by Student Finance England will normally receive funding for any repeat period of study under the regulations which allow you to receive funding for the ordinary duration of your course plus one year. If you have already used this additional year of funding, you have to show that you had compelling personal reasons for taking repeating in order to receive funding. You have to request that your circumstances are considered and it is at the discretion of Student Finance England as to whether funding can be paid.
For NHS-funded students, repeat study may be supported up to a maximum period of 12 months at the discretion of NHS Student Bursaries.
Need more help? Get advice and support from DSU Advice