I have just received the first notification of a concern.

The regulator should set out clearly the circumstances in which the concerns have arisen so that you can understand what you specifically need to respond to, whether it is a particular incident, patient or sequence of events.

If you are a member of a union you may be entitled to legal advice and representation so it is important to let the union know as soon as you are aware of the concern. You may have legal cover under an insurance policy – check with your insurer to see if fitness to practise is covered because if so this will save you a lot of stress and money.

In the notification from your regulator you will be invited to submit an initial response where you can set out your account and additional information which will might help the regulator understand why something happened. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding, perhaps the regulator was not given all of the relevant information, so if you are able to clarify things, then what is being alleged might not actually amount to a concern.

You do have a duty to cooperate with your regulator and to be candid about what happened, even if it is from your perspective. You do still need to consider whether anything you share with the regulator could adversely impact your defence at a later stage. You should resist the temptation to try to downplay the seriousness, blame someone else or be overly apologetic or artificially accept that whatever happened was your fault. It is unlikely that this will simply make the case go away.

One common misconception is that your regulator is there to support you. Regulators also have a duty to protect the public and the reputation of the profession, so when it comes to fitness to practise, you should approach dealing with the regulator with a level of caution. Staff dealing with the concern will almost certainly be polite and friendly, but they are not there to help you and this can be confusing.

Even at this early stage, legal advice can be beneficial – particularly if you do not understand clearly what the concern amounts to and what impact it could have on your career if eventually the concerns were to be found proven. Even if you accept the concerns that have been raised, it can be helpful to understand whether or not it is likely that your fitness to practise will be found to be impaired and consequently the level of sanction that might be applied, bearing in mind that this could range from a warning, through to suspension or conditions being imposed on your ability to practise, or being removed from the register.

If a concern is particularly serious and where there could be a risk to patients or the public, the regulator may seek an interim order to restrict your ability to practise while they gather further evidence and prepare the case for a hearing.

The regulator might also indicate whether they are going to seek any interim restrictions on your ability to practise, while they investigate further.