Site logo

Handling Complaints

  • The Register’s 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.

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 will be expected to make written representations as it considers is required to ensure a fair consideration of the complaint. 

Interviews will only be undertaken if it is deemed not possible to reach an objective decision based on the written information that has been supplied by either or both parties. Interviews wherever possible online using video conferencing tools.

The PCRC 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:

  1. the facts alleged would (if proven) amount to a failure to meet professional standards; and
  2. there is a realistic prospect that facts justifying a finding of such a failure will be proved; and
  3. 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.

The PCRC shall own the complaint process from receipt to decision, including any subsequent disciplinary recommendation . These decisions of recommendations will be presented to the Advisory Board for independent review and agreement, and then to the Executive Committee for ratification.   

Formal allegations

Where the PCRC deems it appropriate to proceed the complaint it will notify the Practitioner and the Complainant of the formal allegations in writing. 

Both parties will at this time asked whether they require additional support or assistance through the procedure, and whether they wish to supply any additional information. Where additional support is requested the PCRC will consider the most appropriate solution and advise the party/parties accordingly.

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.

Consensual Disposal

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 (1) to (3) under “Investigation and Assessment” above warrant proceeding to Hearing.

The outline of the Hearing process is set out below.

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.

The Disciplinary Hearing Process

Disciplinary hearings are formal hearings. They are generally held in private unless the PCRC decides this is not in the public interest.

The complainant is invited to attend as a witness and may be asked to give details of the complaint or answer questions.

The member may be accompanied by a representative who may support or speak on their behalf. Both parties may call witnesses, if agreed beforehand. 

Both parties will be advised by email at least two weeks in advance of such hearings, whether they are invited to attend or not. Attendance is not an obligation. Where parties choose not to attend the meeting will continue in their absence and decisions reached on information available.

If the case is between the Register and the member, a representative of the Register will present the complaint.

The PCRC (or a representative thereof) should:

  • explain what is understood of the complainants case;
  • go through the supporting evidence presented;
  • make sure that all sessions are minuted

The registrants should be given the chance to:

  • set out their case
  • answer any allegations
  • ask questions
  • show evidence
  • call relevant witnesses (with good notice)
  • respond to any information given by witnesses

The registrant’s companion should be allowed to:

  • support their case
  • respond for the registrant where appropriate to any points made at the meeting
  • talk with the complainant during the hearing
  • take notes

At the end of the hearing the PCRC will adjourn to consider it’s decision.

All parties will be made aware of the next steps and the intended timetable for reaching a decision. All parties will thereafter be advised in line with that decision.

In the event that additional information proves to be required then all parties shall be informed.


All final decisions by the PCRC will reached in line with the terms of the Complaints and Malpractice and Maladministration Policies.

The PCRC shall confirm all proposed sanctions and publications in line with the Sanctions Policy, and specific conditions relating to Professional Conduct Notices.

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

Return to the Register’s home page.