Social workers and therapists may face fitness-to-practise inquiries

Sanctions against those found guilty of miscondiuct to include ban on practising

Health and social care professionals accused of misconduct or poor performance may face a public fitness-to-practise hearing for the first time. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Health and social care professionals accused of misconduct or poor performance may face a public fitness-to-practise hearing for the first time. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Health and social care professionals accused of misconduct or poor performance may face a public fitness-to-practise hearing for the first time from today.

A State regulator has been given authority to issue sanctions and investigate complaints against a range of registered professionals, including social workers, speech and language therapists, dieticians, radiographers and radiation therapists.

Any person can make a complaint to Coru, the regulator for health and social care professionals in Ireland for an event which occurred since December 31st, 2014.

Fitness-to-practise hearings will be similar to those held for other professionals such as doctors, pharmacists and nurses and will examine a person’s ability to practise both their job and profession. The potential sanctions range from formal censure to prohibiting a registered professional from practising.

Other professions

A range of other professions are due to become subject to these rules next year, including occupational therapists, physiotherapists, optometrists and dispensing opticians.

Ginny Hanrahan, chief executive of Coru, said if a registered professional was unfit to practise, they put the safety of the public at risk. “Protecting the public is our primary remit and, while the majority of practitioners operate to the highest standards, we will not hesitate to take action if and when necessary,” she said.

Under-resourcing

The measure may well prove controversial among social workers, for example, who argue in some cases that under- resourcing and heavy caseloads means they are unable to provide a safe service.

Ms Hanrahan, however, said professionals who met standards set out in their profession’s code of conduct should not have any reason to feel worried.

All registered professionals have been issued with these codes and all complaints will be measured against them.

Coru was set up in recent years following decades of pledges to promote higher standards by regulating health professionals.