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Rachel is a regulatory lawyer with a particular expertise in professional discipline. She is a UK-wide Ranked Lawyer for Professional Discipline in Chambers and Partners with a national client base.
Rachel has many years of experience advising various regulatory clients and acting for those who are regulated, and spent four years working in-house at the General Medical Council in the early part of her career.
She is a Solicitor-Advocate having completed her Higher Rights of Audience and has a management diploma.

Rachel works predominately in regulation the following sectors:

  • Healthcare
  • Childcare
  • Residential Care
  • Social Care
  • Education
  • Legal and Professional Services

Rachel has a wealth of experience and is highly skilled in the following areas:

  • Investigations
  • Advocacy
  • Chairing Panels
  • Appeals and Judicial Review
  • Legal Advice
  • Project Delivery
  • Private Prosecutions
  • Training


Her specialisms include:

Healthcare Regulation

Rachel is a Legally Qualified Chair at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, sitting to hear cases brought against doctors by the General Medical Council.   She has also previously worked within the in-house legal team at the General Medical Council for a number of years.

Rachel leads Ward Hadaway’s team that deals with fitness to practise matters on behalf of the General Pharmaceutical Council and regularly appears as an advocate on behalf of the General Osteopathic Council before its Professional Conduct Committee. She has recently been appointed as a Case Presenter for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Rachel’s experience in healthcare regulation also includes having previously acted for clients such as the General Dental Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council . She also acts for healthcare providers such as NHS Trusts and GPs  in respect of a range of regulatory issues including CQC and NHS Performers List matters.   Rachel has expertise in:

  • Professional discipline – fitness to practise matters including investigations, interim orders and substantive hearings
  • First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal appeals including advocacy
  • Independent investigations
  • Factual accuracy challenges
  • Representations in respect of enforcement action
  • Rating review requests
  • Action plans to bring about improvement
  • High Court appeals and Judicial Reviews
  • Audits for healthcare providers and regulators

Childcare Regulation (including safeguarding matters)

Rachel has acted for the national regulator for childcare settings for a number of years.

Rachel has dealt with a significant number of appeals by childminders, nurseries, after school clubs and children’s homes including urgent suspension cases where children are considered to be at risk of harm if a childcare provider continues with the provision of childcare. Rachel is skilled in:

  • Defending First-tier Tribunal Appeals in the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber
  • Reviewing safeguarding policies

Care Sector Regulation

Rachel acts for the Care Quality Commission defending First-tier Tribunal Appeals in the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber,  but also acts for Care Home Providers advising on:

  • Appeals
  • Investigations into adverse incidents
  • Preparing for inspections
  • Factual accuracy challenges
  • Representations in respect of enforcement action
  • Ratings reviews
  • Action plans to bring about improvement

Social Care Regulation

Rachel has been appointed as a Legal Adviser to the new regulator for social workers, Social Work England and will be advising its Fitness to Practise Committee .


Rachel deals with Special Educational Needs and Disability Appeals in the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) on behalf of parents/young people.  Rachel also assists CCGs where the health and social care element of the EHC Plan is challenged as part of the current National Trial.

Legal and Professional Services Regulation

Rachel has acted on behalf of both the Bar Standards Board and Costs Lawyer Standards Board.

Investigations and Audits

Rachel has significant experience in the delivery of fitness to practise investigations on behalf of regulators. She has conducted Independent Investigations and Audits for healthcare providers. She has also acted for those facing investigation or enforcement action by regulators.


Rachel is a solicitor-advocate. She has presented numerous cases before various committees of the General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, former General Social Care Council, General Osteopathic Council and also the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal.

These are often contested hearings lasting a number of days. She has successfully defended subsequent appeals to the Upper Tribunal.  She can deal with interim orders and substantive hearings.

Appeals and Judicial Review

Rachel deals with High Court, First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal Appeals and Judicial Review matters.  She has worked with the majority of the healthcare regulators in the UK, and has acted for the Professional Standards Authority in relation to Section 29 appeals.

Legal Advice

Rachel is sought out to advise regulators and those who are regulated in relation to a range of regulatory issues. Having worked in-house for the General Medical Council she has an excellent insight into the issues facing a regulator and works with her client to ensure that its decisions are robust. She can bring that insight to the advisory work that she does for those who are regulated.

Project Delivery

Rachel is known for her efficient management style and over the years has managed large teams of junior lawyers in order to deliver a high quality and responsive legal service to her regulatory clients. She has overseen the delivery of significant project work for clients including:

  • Drafting of in excess of 200 sets of allegations to clear a backlog
  • Instruction of experts to prepare reports on a large number of cases

Investigation of hundreds of fitness to practise cases

  • Helping a regulator to work through a significant number of cases where ratings reviews had been requested.

Private Prosecutions

Rachel handles private prosecutions for regulators and has prosecuted on behalf of the General Dental Council and the Security Industry Authority.


Rachel regularly delivers training and talks to clients and membership groups such as Association of Regulatory and Disciplinary Lawyers (“ARDL”) and Women in the Law UK.  Recent examples of training include to :

  • Deputy Medical Directors of NHS England on “Healthcare Regulators’ and First-tier Tribunal Hearings”
  • Employees of General Osteopathic Council on “Drafting Allegations”
  • Members of ARDL on “Professional Discipline Case Law”
  • Members of Women in the Law UK on “Career Progression”

What people say

  • Rachel is extremely thorough and never misses anything. She's also always armed with relevant case law and provides detailed advice in relation to precedent and relevant authorities. She's prompt and responsive, which is particularly helpful in high-risk cases. She is very supportive and makes time to be available to discuss issues at short notice. She is approachable, commercially minded and gives clear advice.

    Client quote
  • According to interviewees, Rachel Birks of Ward Hadaway has “great attention to detail, is on the ball, and is good at putting forward practical solutions to challenging issues.” She has a broad practice, acting for numerous regulators, with recent work for the PSA.'

    Chambers & Partners
  • I would like to thank you personally and Ward Hadaway as a company. The service I received was certainly the best out of any legal company I have ever used.....I was so impressed with your dedication, hard work and straight talking which helped us to make our decision in this very difficult case.

    Brian Powell, Owner, Ashfield Nursery

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