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Alternative mechanisms for resolving disputes: a literature review

The purpose of this study is to provide information for the Health Professions Council (HPC) on the use of mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in dealing with complaints against health and wellbeing professionals. ADR is a term that embraces a range of alternatives to adjudication or investigation, including mediation, conciliation and ‘frontline resolution.’

The HPC’s interest in these practices stems from a report prepared for it by Ipsos MORI which indicated a lack of understanding of its fitness to practise process among members of the public and the professions.

One of this report’s suggestions was that some form of mediation could prevent a proportion of complaints from reaching a formal investigation. The Health Professions Council was established in 2002 by the Health Professions Order 2001 enacted under section 60 of the Health Act 1999. Its function is to protect the public by ensuring high standards among fifteen professions working in the health and wellbeing arena. It enforces these standards via its fitness to practise process. While the main trigger for investigating a registrant is a complaint, the HPC is clear that its approach differs from other complaints processes. It is not designed to punish professionals for harm done, nor to resolve disputes between them and their clients: rather, its focus is on whether these professionals are fit to practise.