Common Reasons Professionals Are Referred to Regulators

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Common Reasons Professionals Are Referred to Regulators

Many UK industries are subject to regulation, whether by an independent body, a trade organisation or the government. Every regulator is different, but they generally focus on enforcing minimum safety standards for products and services, with the aim of protecting the general public from harm. Registration with a regulator may be voluntary, but is often compulsory, especially in the healthcare sector or other industries where low standards of service can lead to significant harm.

For example, the NHS alone is overseen by nine professional bodies that regulate 32 health and care-related professions. This includes councils for doctors, dentists, midwives and those who work in pharmaceuticals. Other regulatory organisations include the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates companies providing financial services to protect the UK’s markets, and the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), which oversees the teaching profession in England.

If you are registered with a regulatory body, you must understand the specific rules that apply to you. If you are thought to have broken the rules or if your conduct fails to meet specified standards, you may be placed under investigation. In the most serious outcomes of these cases, you may be banned from your profession or lose your licence to practise. You should also work with an expert corporate and professional regulation solicitor during the investigation process. This will help you to comply with your legal obligations, and offers an opportunity for you to mount a defence.

Here, the experienced professional regulation team at JMW Solicitors outlines some of the most common reasons why professionals in the UK may be referred to a regulatory body. We examine the potential outcomes of these cases, and the steps you can take if you are subject to such an investigation.


In most cases, anyone can make a referral to a regulatory body, and this means that there are many reasons why. When it comes to conducting an investigation, the body in question will first determine whether the report or allegation falls under its jurisdiction. If it does, the regulator is legally obliged to investigate.

Many professionals are reported due to issues of competence. While doctors, teachers and others might have all of the required  qualifications to practise, this does not necessarily mean that they deliver a high-quality service. Many professions are subject to strict standards above and beyond competence. A failure to meet legal or regulatory requirements may be regarded as  incompetence and can lead to an investigation by a regulator.

At the same time, reports of incompetence are often made against professionals who, in fact, meet all of the necessary standards. Some people have unrealistic expectations of the level of service that will be delivered, or misunderstand the potential results. This is a common cause of reports being made. When regulators take too long to investigate, this can cause serious disruption to a professional’s work - even when they are eventually cleared of suspicion.

If you are subject to an investigation into your competence, you should speak to a solicitor. They can represent you during the investigation and help you to understand the legal options available to you. This includes preparing you for any interviews with authorities, helping you to collect evidence and presenting any mitigating circumstances that should be taken into account.


Concerns about a professional’s conduct are another common reason why they may be referred to a regulator. This is different from competence because it does not necessarily suggest that the service delivered by the professional fell below the appropriate standards. Instead, it means that they behaved in a way that did not meet the legal or ethical standards to which they are bound by their registration with the regulator.

These kinds of breaches are different in each case, because every regulatory body holds its members to slightly different standards. In general, behaviour that falls below the expected standards might include dishonesty, breaches of confidentiality, conflicts of interest, or inappropriate behaviour towards clients or colleagues. In some professions, financial misconduct may also be a factor. Allegations that a professional mismanaged client or company funds or committed fraud must be investigated, as must any financial irregularities that breach trust and professional standards.

Investigations into conduct could also involve criminal activity, whether related to the person’s profession or not. Behaviours that could bring disrepute to a professional’s industry or sector will generally warrant an investigation.

The results of these types of investigations vary. The regulator may find that there are no grounds to take further action, or may issue a warning in response to a minor infraction. Penalties for more serious breaches can include fines, conditions or undertakings, where a professional must commit to not taking certain actions - for example, not practising until they have completed particular training. The most severe breaches include suspension from registration or being struck off from the regulator’s register. If evidence of criminal activity is found, the case might also be referred to the police or another investigating body.

Working with a solicitor during the investigation is crucial. The team at JMW can help you to understand your legal obligations and comply with the investigation. At the same time, we will help you build a defence with a view to protecting your career.


A professional’s health is a key factor in their ability to deliver services at the high standards required. Any physical or mental health conditions that significantly impair a professional's ability to perform their duties might result in a referral to a regulatory body. It can be difficult to judge when someone is no longer able to perform their role effectively, especially if their condition is one that worsens over time. If a professional does not seek appropriate treatment for their condition, or fails to inform their regulator about their circumstances, this can lead to regulatory penalties even if the condition has not directly affected their work.

Allegations of substance abuse may also be referred to regulators and investigated. Any substance abuse can affect a professional’s ability to work safely and effectively. If the regulator finds evidence of substance abuse, this can result in significant penalties.

At the same time, health is often unpredictable. There are many mitigating circumstances that can affect someone’s ability to perform their job effectively that might not be foreseeable. With the right treatment and support, many professionals with long-term health conditions can still uphold the necessary standards when performing their jobs.

Our advice for professionals of all types who are referred to their regulators would be to speak to a solicitor. The team at JMW has a wealth of experience in representing and defending professionals during investigations and hearings conducted by regulators, the police, or other investigatory bodies. With our thorough approach, we consider every angle and will work tirelessly to ensure you are treated fairly. We will always be honest and realistic about the outcomes you can expect, and seek the fairest possible result for you.


In summary, a regulator can issue punishments and can determine a professional’s fitness to practise. An investigation (with or without an interim suspension) is not supposed to be a sanction in itself, but it can often have a devastating impact on a career, even if the regulator decides to take no further action. In the event of proceedings before the relevant committee or tribunal, a practicing certificate is usually at risk. Therefore, targeted preparation is of fundamental importance. Whether the concerns are admitted or denied, representation by a legal team with a firm understanding of the issues is so important in advancing your position.  

To learn more about how JMW can help, or to talk to us about an investigation, contact our team today. Call us on 0345 872 6666 or use our online enquiry form to request a call back.

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