How we make sure concerns raised with us are appropriate and fair

There are a number of processes and safeguards to help make sure that concerns raised with us are appropriate, fair and proportionate.

Referrals from employers

Our Outreach team work across the UK to improve understanding of our role and when fitness to practise action is necessary. They discuss concerns and help to address them at a local level.

We’ve developed guidance to support employers and responsible officers (ROs) when they’re considering raising a concern with us. It explains that they must tell us:

  • about all the steps they’ve taken to make sure referrals are fair and inclusive
  • what impartial checks have been carried out and how they’ve considered systemic issues
  • what support they’ve provided locally to the doctor in question

We work with partners to help make sure local investigation processes are fair and consistent. We’ve also spoken to every employer in the UK about their duty to provide supportive and inclusive working environments. This includes how they’re considering the findings of the Fair to Refer? research, which we commissioned to explore why employers and healthcare providers refer some groups of doctors to us, more than others. We’re also taking forward our own programme of work to make sure our processes are fair and free from bias.

Concerns from patients and the public

We have updated resources and information on our website to help improve understanding of the fitness to practise process. This includes making it clear what we can and can’t investigate.

We support patients and the public by signposting to organisations that might be better placed to deal with their concerns. We aim to help them raise their concern in the right place, so it’s addressed appropriately, and they get the answers they’re looking for.

We are working with external organisations to make sure they can advise patients and the public about when to raise a concern with us.

Helping doctors to speak up

We continue to encourage doctors to speak up if they have any concerns about patient safety, or if they’re concerned that they may have experienced a retaliatory or threatening referral. It’s absolutely unacceptable for fitness to practise referrals to be used to intimidate or retaliate against doctors.

Our Speaking up webpage has a range of resources and practical help for doctors. It includes information about external organisations who provide independent support for raising concerns. Our confidential helpline is also available for advice if you're finding this challenging.