The Athena Herd Foundation Compliments and Complaints Policy encourages services users and members of the public to resolve their concerns directly with practitioners under their own processes. However, we recognise that there are often circumstances where clients, the public and other Practitioners need to bring complaints about poor or unethical practice directly to our attention so we can take appropriate action.
Bringing these situations to our attention serves to protect both the public and the reputation of the profession.
Review of Complaints
On receipt of a complaint the Professional Conduct Review Committee (PCRC) will carry out an initial triage. PCRC will consist of not less than three persons, including at least one lay person and at least one member of Athena Herd Foundation team.
PCRC decisions will be made on a majority basis.
Investigation and Assessment
The PCRC will consider the matter on the papers without the attendance of the parties unless it considers that fairness requires an interview. Both the Complainant and the Practitioner to make such written representation as it considers is required to ensure a fair consideration of the complaint.
The panel may request such further information or make such further investigations as it considers appropriate, including interviewing the Complainant and/or the Practitioner. All available information deemed appropriate can be considered, whether or not the Complainant has specifically referred to it as a matter of complaint.
The PCRC will assess whether or not conditions presented warrant investigation or the complaint should be dismissed.
The Register considers the following conditions to be the test as to whether or not the complaint warrants proceeding:
- the facts alleged would (if proven) amount to a failure to meet professional standards; and
- there is a realistic prospect that facts justifying a finding of such a failure will be proved; and
- that it is in the public interest for the complaint to be dealt with by way of the Malpractice and Maladministration Policy
If the PCRC that the complaint should be dismissed, and that recommendation is accepted, the PCRC will notify the parties and provide reasons for its decision.
If the PCRC finds grounds for proceeding the complaint, it will set out the formal allegations in relation to which it has found that the proceedings test is met and specify in relation to each allegation, whether it is an allegation of professional misconduct.
Where the PCRC decides that one or more of the allegations is an allegation of professional misconduct, the case will be handled under the Malpractice and Maladministration Policy.
Where the PCRC deems it appropriate to proceed the complaint it will notify the Practitioner and the Complainant of the formal allegations in writing.
The Practitioner must formally respond to the allegations in writing within 28 days of notification. The Complainant will be provided with a copy of the Member’s formal response to the allegations.
The Practitioner may, in their response, request that the complaint be dealt with by way of consensual disposal. The PCRC shall consider whether it is appropriate to deal with the complaint by means of consensual disposal; it may also recommend handling via this process, subject to the agreement by all parties.
Where the Practitioner does not provide a formal response in accordance with the above the PCRC may add an additional allegation that the Practitioner has failed to co-operate with their obligations to The Register.
The Professional Standards Authority defines Consensual Disposal as “Consensual disposal is the means by which regulatory panels and registrants can avoid the need for a contested hearing by reaching agreement to conclude cases by deciding in private the outcome that the panel would most likely have reached if hearings were to be contested and held in public.”
If it is agreed by all that the complaint is dealt with by means of consensual disposal, there will be no formal Hearing of the complaint. However, the ultimate outcome or agreement will be deemed to be a disciplinary decision and notified as such to the Complainant. In addition, the outcome will be published in accordance with the conditions of the Register’s Professional Conduct Notices.
Where the complaint is recognised as being one of Malpractice then the complaint cannot be resolved through consensual disposal.
Any material breach of the terms of the consensual disposal agreement by the Practitioner will be referred to our Sanctions Policy and may result in termination of registration with readmission not being permissible for at least three years. Such a decision will be published in accordance with the Register’s conditions of Professional Conduct Publication.
Referral for Disciplinary Hearing
If no agreement is reached request is made for consensual disposal, or in the process no outcome is agreed, and where the outcome of tests (i) to (iii) under “Investigation and Assessment” above warrant proceeding to Hearing.
The outline of the Hearing process is available on request.
Where there are no allegations of professional misconduct, the PCRC will consider the need to undertake a less formal practice review.
Depending on the nature of the complaint and the outcome of either any practice review or disciplinary Hearing a number of actions are available for recommendation in-line with the Sanctions Policy, these are:
- advise the Practitioner member on how they can resolve or develop their practice and support them by issuing improvement plans including SMART objectives
- publish details of the complaint and any sanctions (see our Publication policy) on our Professional Conduct Notices page
- withdraw or remove them from The Register
- or, if they fail or refuse to comply with the outcome of the complaints process or imposed sanctions, we may also withdraw their membership
- notification of findings to other accredited registers, organisations or agencies where it is deemed appropriate and or in the public interest
If a complaint is dismissed, or the Complainant is unsatisfied with the outcome, they may make a written request under the terms of the Athena Herd Foundation Appeals Policy
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