We have now launched a consultation on a proposed pilot of changes to timescales for the Rule 4 process, which include providing registrants and their representatives, under certain circumstances, with the opportunity to request to extend the period for the preparation of their observations at the Rule 4 stage, to ensure the best possible evidence can be provided.
A key focus for our fitness to practise end to end review has been the overall timescales of fitness to practise (FtP) case progression. The Rule 4 process, which provides registrants with an opportunity to submit comments in response to concerns raised, currently allows 28 days for the registrant to provide any observations to the allegations. The observations, if provided, are considered and included in the material used to determine whether the concern can be concluded by the case examiners or if it should be referred to a practice committee hearing.
Several organisations have advised us that on occasion, 28 days can be insufficient time for the registrant and their representative organisation to identify, prepare and provide observations.
Our proposal therefore is to provide the registrant and their representative, under certain circumstances, the opportunity to request to extend the period for the preparation of their observations. Requests for a 14-day extension to the Rule 4-time limit will usually be granted for cases involving clinical concerns where the registrant has no other FtP matter being actively considered at any stage. If the registrant has one or more other cases actively being considered by FtP they may request an extension, however the GDC reserves the right to decline the request.
In addition, we would seek to disclose details of any clinical assessment that had been sought in advance of the full 'Rule 4 Bundle' being made available. This could provide up to an additional five working days for registrants and their representatives to consider and prepare a response to any clinical concerns that may have arisen.
Further procedural detail on how to request an extension together with timescales for the GDC to respond will be developed if these proposals are taken forward. If the proposals are taken forward, we would begin by piloting the process for a nine-month period, followed by a review of the pilot before determining whether to continue.
The consultation is now open and can be accessed on this page. The deadline to respond is 7 September 2019.