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.
From the middle of September 2020, we will hold a very small number of hearings in person at our London headquarters, however we will continue to hold most hearings remotely.
You can find out more about remote hearings in the following frequently asked questions.
How does the GDC determine which cases should be heard at the moment?
Where we perceive an immediate risk to patient safety, these urgent hearings are now being run remotely using video conference facilities. These cases are typically Interim Orders Committee (both initial and review hearings) and Practice Committee review hearings.
In addition, where appropriate and with the agreement of all parties concerned, we may also hold hearings which were previously adjourned part way through. We will also list any initial substantive hearings (that is Professional Conduct Committee, Professional Performance Committee or Health Committee hearings which are deemed suitable to list remotely with agreement of the parties or after a decision by a Committee that the hearing should go ahead.
We will frequently review the types of hearings we hold remotely in order to ensure that we fulfil our statutory functions and we will update these FAQs as and when we change the types of hearings that we hold.
What do I need to do if I'm taking part in a remote hearing, as a registrant, representative or witness?
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.
I have an interim order review hearing or substantive order review hearing coming up. Is that still happening?
Yes - the GDC is continuing to list Interim Order review hearings in accordance with its statutory requirements (i.e. every 6 months, or in some circumstances, within 3 months).
The GDC is also listing all substantive order reviews (Professional Conduct Committee, Professional Performance Committee and Health Committee) before the expiry of the order. We can consider these either ‘on papers’ with no-one attending and papers submitted for the Committee to consider, or with attendees present remotely via a video conferencing link or on the telephone.
For more information on how to give your agreement to an ‘on papers’ hearing, you should speak with your representative or, if you are unrepresented, to the member of the GDC legal team handling your case.
I won’t be able to attend the virtual hearing because of the current crisis. Can it be postponed?
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.
I don’t think I will be able to participate effectively in a virtual hearing. What should I do?
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.
Will the public and press be able to observe a virtual hearing?
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.