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Annie Sorbie part of new project to improve the experience of witnesses in health and care fitness to practise proceedings

Sun 12 September 2021

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In a world first, researchers have been independently funded to study the experience of witnesses who give evidence in professional conduct hearings about care provided by health and social care professionals.

A particular focus will be on cases where there are allegations of harm caused. This focus should allow the identification of potential improvements to support witnesses, for consideration by regulators and employers.

The Open University (OU) and Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Oxford, the University of Glasgow and The University of Edinburgh have been awarded just under £750,000 by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The project, "Witness to harm, holding to account: Improving patient, family and colleague witnesses’ experiences of Fitness to Practise proceedings", will see researchers undertaking a mixed methods study with the UK’s health and care regulators about the experience of the public as witnesses in professional health and care regulatory proceedings.

This independently funded research will explore the experience of witnesses involved in Fitness to Practise (FtP) proceedings in six of the UK’s health and social care regulators. It aims to find out what support witnesses expect, what they receive and what they need. It will explore and identify current best practise and potential improvements to how the public engages with FtP processes, and lead to workable recommendations and supportive resources for the public, professional bodies, employers and regulators.

Over the 30 months of the project from September 2021, the team will be working with a further seven UK regulators of health and social care professionals, (in addition to the six mentioned above), people who have been witnesses in these proceedings, and employers of health and social care practitioners, to produce videos and other support materials for use by the public, regulators, regulatory lawyers and professional bodies, health and social care educators and employers.

Co-Investigator from The University of Edinburgh, Annie Sorbie said: “The provision of written and oral evidence by witnesses is a crucial part of the fitness to practise process.  This helps to ensure that when regulators make decisions about whether health and care professionals are fit to practise, these are fair, timely and protect the public.  Our study will provide novel insights into the experiences of witnesses, and use these findings to create resources and guidance that enable people to be better supported when they provide evidence. I am delighted to work on this NIHR funded project with colleagues across the UK and from a range of disciplinary backgrounds.

Read more about the project