Remote hearings - guidance and frequently asked questions

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt in every aspect of society, and fitness to practise is no exception to this.

Where we perceive an immediate risk to patient safety, urgent hearings are being run remotely using video conference facilities. In addition, where appropriate and with the agreement of all parties concerned, or after it has been agreed by the Committee, we may also hold hearings which were previously adjourned part way through or those which are deemed suitable for hearing remotely.

We began some remote hearings in March 2020, and we continue to hear cases in this way wherever appropriate. Where applications are made for a hearing to be heard in person during the period of COVID-19 restrictions, a GDC hearing committee will decide how the matter should be heard.

You can find out more about remote hearings in the following frequently asked questions.

Before the hearing

If you are due to take part in a hearing that will be held using video conferencing technology, we will ensure that before the hearing, you are comfortable with the technology.

A short time before the hearing is due to start, we will arrange to hold a test call with you so that you can see how everything works and provide any help and guidance required to make sure that you are comfortable in accessing the technology. This is also an opportunity for you to ask any general questions about how the remote hearing process works.

You can also request that our witness support officer contacts you to provide more information about the process.

At the hearing

Once you have joined the hearing using the link we provide, you will be able to see and hear all of the other participants in the hearing. They will also be able to see and hear you once you have activated your microphone and webcam.

You will be asked by the Chair of the Committee to introduce yourself, and the Chair will explain the format and nature of the hearing to you.

Taking part in a hearing can be an unusual and stressful event, and the remote nature of hearings at present can make them seem unnatural. Your participation in the hearing is very important, however, and as such the Chair and our hearings staff will help you participate fully.

It would be helpful if you could ensure that you are in a room where you will not be disturbed, and where you have access to the documents relevant to the hearing. Where possible, it's easier if you can view those documents on a different device to the one you are using to take part in the hearing, so that you can continue to see those participating in the hearing on your screen, although we appreciate this won't always be an option.

Finally, we recommend a minimum constant internet speed of 8 Mbps - you can check your broadband speed on the Which website.

Please let the Chair know if you are unable to hear or see at any time during the hearing.

We recognise that due to the current crisis, it may be difficult for you to attend the hearing, even remotely. If that is the case, please let us know as soon as possible if you think you will not be able to participate remotely, providing detailed reasons for this. The matter will then be considered either the GDC or by the Committee that is due to hear the case. If you are unwell, either with possible COVID-19 symptoms or anything else, you should let us know as soon as you can. We will then advise you of the next steps. If you feel unable to participate in the hearing on the day of the hearing, either before or during the hearing, you must inform the Committee. 

Many other regulators and courts across the United Kingdom are holding virtual hearings successfully, and we are all learning from each other about how to make the experience as good as possible for all participants. Before the hearing starts, a member of our hearings support team will hold a test call with you so that you are familiar with the technology. This usually takes place the day before your hearing. They will also be available to help you use the technology, should this be required.

On the day of the hearing, our panel and the other parties attending will be flexible and patient so that you can participate effectively. Shortly before the hearing, a hearings support officer will send the meeting link to you so you can join the hearing when the time comes. We will assist with any other individual support needs that you make us aware of.

In the interests of transparency, the starting point for our fitness to practise hearings is that they take place in public, and we are aiming to maintain this principle for our remote hearings.

However, we need to balance this against the need to prioritise the smooth running of hearings and, to this end, maximum attendance limits will apply. The Committee may consider it appropriate to hear entire hearings, or certain aspects or hearings, in private. In these instances, members of the public will not be admitted.

You can request a public access place for a hearing in advance, by submitting a request.

Committee decisions will continue to be published on our website, in line with our usual arrangements.  
Under the GDC’s Rules, any party may request that the hearing goes into private session, either in full or for part. For example, this will happen where matters relate to someone’s health. Should the Committee agree to the request, we will ensure that any members of the public who are ‘attending’ the hearing no longer have access.