16 November 2015

What happens at a fitness to practise hearing?

Your six-point guide to the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) hearing process.

1. The panel

The three-strong panel considering the case will be led by a Chair. The Chair may be a lay person or from one of our professions. They will be joined by a lay person, who is not registered with us, plus a registrant from the same profession as the person being investigated.

Panels of the Conduct and Competence Committee consider allegations that a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, lack of competence, or a conviction or caution for a criminal offence. Panels of the Health Committee consider allegations that registrants’ fitness to practise is impaired by reason of their physical and/or mental health.

2. Public or private?

Hearings are usually held in public. This means that members of the public (including the press) can attend. Hearings may sometimes be held or part-held in private if there is confidential information involved. For example, if the panel thinks they need to protect service user confidentiality, the registrant’s private life or that of any witnesses.

Even if a hearing is held in private, any decisions the panel makes and the reasons for them, still need to be publically available.

3. Considered factors

In deciding whether a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the panel will take into account factors including:
  • Whether they have ignored previous warnings
  • Whether they have taken action to correct their behaviour
  • Whether they have insight (understanding of the harm caused)
  • The link between their conduct and their profession
  • Whether their behaviour has undermined public confidence
  • Whether they have not met our standards of conduct, performance and ethics
  • Whether they are likely to repeat the behaviour

4. Possible sanctions

If the panel finds the case against the registrant is well-founded, there are a number of actions they may take or sanctions which can apply:
  • Take no further action or order mediation (a process where an independent person helps agree a solution to any issues)
  • Caution order (place a warning on the Register for between one to five years)
  • Conditions of practice order (setting conditions which must be met, e.g. working under supervision or further training)
  • Suspension from practice (for no longer than one year)
  • Striking-off order (registrant’s name will be struck from the Register which means they can no longer practice)

5. Timescales

The time a case takes to reach the end of the process can vary depending on the nature of the investigation, how complicated the issues are, and the availability of parties to give evidence to the panel. We understand that it can be stressful when an FtP concern is raised, and we will provide you with an idea of how long our enquiries will take at each stage of the process. 

In 2013-14 the length of time of cases referred for a hearing to conclude was an average of 17 and a median of 14 months from receipt of the allegation. Continuing to analyse the length of time cases take to conclude has enabled us to identify a number of early triggers that can be used to predict the impact on the lifetime of a single case, and the overall system.

6. Appealing a decision

Registrants can appeal against the panel’s decision if they consider it is wrong or the sanction is unfair. The appeal is heard by the High Court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, or the Court of Session in Scotland. In 2013-14, seven registrants appealed the decisions made by the Conduct and Competence Committee. To date, two appeals were withdrawn by the registrant, three were dismissed by the court, one case had a substituted decision and one is ongoing.

For more information about fitness to practise hearings watch our YouTube video or visit www.hcpc-uk.org/complaints/hearings/atthehearing

29 October 2015

5 things you should know about the HCPC’s annual monitoring process

Education Manager, Ben Potter, highlights what education providers need to be aware of when it comes to annual monitoring this year.

Programme leaders of our approved education and training programmes should have received correspondence in October about our annual monitoring process over the 2015-16 academic year.

Annual monitoring is a retrospective documentary process to consider whether a programme continues to meet our education standards, and that individuals who successfully complete the programme are able to meet the HCPC’s relevant Standards of proficiency (SOPs), standards for prescribers or standards for approved mental health professionals.

901 programmes – more than ever before – are being considered through annual monitoring in 2015-16. Here’s 5 things education providers can do to help ensure a straightforward and effective process:

1. Submit one of two types of monitoring submission: a declaration or an audit

Depending on whether you’re in Group A or Group B, you will need to submit an audit or a declaration. A declaration asks you to confirm that the programme continues to meet our education standards, and that recent and future changes have been reported to us. An audit asks you to submit a completed form and mapping document with several key pieces of your internal quality monitoring documentation. You can check if your education provider is in Group A or B here.

2. Evidence service user and carer involvement

Education providers who have not been visited since September 2014 will need to demonstrate how they are involving service users and carers in their approved programmes. This follows the introduction of SET 3.17 in 2014 and the prescribing standard B.15 in 2015. Guidance on how to evidence service user and carer involvement can be found here.

3. Demonstrate the integration of revised SOPs

With the exception of social worker and practitioner psychologist programmes, all pre-registration education and training programmes must declare that they have integrated the revised Standards of Proficiency (SOPs) for their profession into their teaching and learning. More information on our processes for assessing the revised SOPs is detailed here.

4. Send us your submission by the specified deadline

Your submission date is detailed in the correspondence emailed to you in October. This date will usually correspond with the end of any internal quality processes. You must complete the relevant form – declaration or audit – and submit it to us, along with the requested documentation, by the deadline stated in our correspondence to you. Failure to do so may result in your programme’s ongoing approval being considered by the HCPC’s Education and Training Committee.

5. Further guidance on the HCPC website

The Education section of the HCPC website provides detailed information and guidance about the annual monitoring process. You can also read and/or download our Annual monitoring – supplementary information for education providers publication. If you require any additional advice, you can contact the HCPC’s education department on 020 7840 9812 or email annualmonitoring@hcpc-uk.org

02 October 2015

Health, disability and becoming a health and care professional

Our new guidance aims to encourage, enable and support disabled people who are considering or training to become HCPC-registered professionals. Policy Officer, Laura Coveney, tells us more.

We think that having a health condition or disability shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to becoming a health and care professional. Indeed, many people who have disabilities successfully complete our approved training programmes, go on to register with us and practise as health and care professionals.

We want to help people with disabilities overcome any perceived barriers to training and then becoming registered with us in their chosen profession. This was the primary reason for producing our updated guidance publication: Health, disability and becoming a health and care professional. It offers insight and advice for those with disabilities, as well as information for education providers about delivering support.

One of the key things the guide does is to break down the process of becoming a health and care professional; from choosing and applying for a course to registering with the HCPC and gaining employment. A brief summary is outlined below.

This four-step process is complemented by a series of case studies from students and staff who have shared their experiences of having a disability and training to become a health and care professional.

Step 1: choosing a course

Those with disabilities may find it helpful to speak to education providers, career advisors, etc., to find out about the support available during training and working in their chosen profession.

Step 2: applying and completing an approved programme

For students with disabilities, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of whether tasks can be carried out safely and effectively. The ability to do certain tasks, or the support needed to carry them out, may change over time. Education providers can assess applications and consider their responsibilities, including making reasonable adjustments if necessary.

Step 3: applying for registration

Part of the HCPC application requires prospective registrants to make a health declaration. We recognise that a disability may not be seen as a health condition.  And we do not need information about any health condition or disability unless it affects your fitness to practise.

Step 4: gaining employment

All professionals using one of our protected titles must be registered before they can begin practising. Similar to education providers, employers are also required to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to ensure disabled employees are not seriously disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

Health, disability and becoming a health and care professional is available to download here. It is also available in a number of formats on request, including braille and large print.

For more information visit the dedicated health and disability section of the HCPC website: www.hcpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/healthanddisability

29 September 2015

A reflection on my first 100 days with The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The HCPC's new Council Chair, Elaine Buckley, reflects on her first 100 days in office.

Following the 100th meeting of HCPC’s Council in my first 100 days it’s a good time to reflect on my experience of joining the organisation as Chair. I would therefore like to share with you some of the key elements of my reflections as I approach this key milestone.

In common with many colleagues, I have worked in both health and social care provider organisations and higher education institutions, one thing both sectors have in common is the unrelenting pace of change. I therefore took up the role of Chair of the HCPC wondering if it is possible for regulation to enable change rather than act as a barrier. The evidence I have gathered over my time at the HCPC is moving me towards a conclusion that it (regulation) can, and in fact should, enable change.

The rationale for my conclusion is multifaceted; as a regulator of 16 professions working across a range of sectors, the HCPC has an outcome model of regulation, using a framework of standards relevant to all. This enables registrants to apply them to their own context. Recent work carried out to evaluate our CPD standards provides robust evidence to support this theory. Our programme of education visits also demonstrates that innovative programme design and delivery is possible within the framework of our standards of education and training.

Partnership is another key feature of how we work at the HCPC, whether that be with professional bodies, registrants, service users, employers or education providers. For example, we have recently worked with and launched a campaign to highlight the benefits of using arts therapists to employers. The organisation also has a broad programme of events and consultations, aimed at either gathering opinion or sharing evidence and good practice. We recently consulted on the revised standards of conduct, performance and ethics and guidance for disabled people wanting to become health and care professionals both which will be launched in the coming months. I am also very much looking forward to my first series of public events in Scotland next month. We are committed to being 'in touch' with the professions that we regulate and these events provide a vital opportunity to share and also hear what is happening.

Continuous quality improvement dominates the culture of the HCPC. That could be in response to stakeholder feedback through our regular research activities. It could also be through a cyclical programme of standards review, to ensure they remain relevant and current or our on-going work to further engage with members of the public, service users and patient safety groups. 

I have been fortunate to join a very effective and efficient organisation, but it’s by no means complacent. There is much work we need to do in order to ensure that the model of regulation we adopt delivers its ultimate objective; public protection, but in doing so enables our stakeholders to respond to the changing demands within their operating environment, whenever and wherever that might be.

Activity for the coming months includes refreshing the strategy for 2016 and beyond, publication of the new standards of conduct, performance and ethics and beginning work on reviewing the standards of education and training as well as improvements to our fitness to practise processes and our registration systems.

I look forward to working with my colleagues over the coming months and years to continue to strengthen the evidence base for regulation and build even stronger engagement among our stakeholders. 

02 September 2015

Students: what you need to know about the HCPC

Welcome to all those embarking on one of our approved education and training courses this autumn. Here’s 11 things all new students should know about the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).  

1. We are a UK multi-profession regulator created to protect the public
The HCPC was created by legislation - the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 - and is independent of government, professional bodies and trade unions. We currently regulate 16 health and care professions.

2. We keep a Register of health and care professionals who meet our standards for their training, professional skills, behaviour and health
Those registered are called ‘registrants’. Registrants must be HCPC registered in order to use one of our legally protected titles, for example ‘Physiotherapist’, ‘Paramedic’ and ‘Social Worker’. This applies to those working in both public and private sectors.

3. In order to remain registered with us, registrants must continue to meet the standards that we set for your profession
There are four key sets of standards: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics; Standards of Proficiency; Standards of education and training; Standards of continuing professional development. These standards determine registrants’ ‘fitness to practise’.

4. Standards of conduct, performance and ethics set out the behaviour and conduct expected of our registrants
These standards apply to both registrants and prospective registrants. We have produced guidance on conduct and ethics for students based on these standards, which will enable you to familiarise yourself with them prior to registration with us.

5. Students’ behaviour whilst studying can impact on their ability to register with HCPC
While we do not register students or trainees, our Standards of conduct, performance and ethics apply to those studying to join a profession regulated by HCPC.

6. Every registrant must meet the Standards of proficiency for their profession
Meeting these standards is a requirement in order to become registered and to remain on the HCPC Register. Students must be able to meet these standards when they complete an approved programme.

7. Standards of education and training must be met by education providers
These standards ensure that all those completing an approved programme meet the standards of proficiency.

8. Standards of continuing professional development (CPD) must be met by all registrants
CPD is the way registrants continue to learn and develop throughout their careers so they keep their skills and knowledge up to date and are able to work safely, legally and effectively. Registrants must maintain a continuous and accurate record of their CPD activities.

9. The HCPC’s fitness to practise (FtP) process is designed to protect the public from those who are not fit to practise.
We can take action when there are concerns about a registrant’s conduct or competence. It is important to remember that only a very small percentage of registrants are ever subject to FtP concerns. Of the 322,021 registrants on the Register, just 0.64% were subject to FtP concerns last year.

10. Once you have successfully completed your training, you will need to register with HCPC before you are able to start work using a protected title
Your education provider will notify HCPC that you have successfully completed your programme. You can then apply to join the Register at www.hcpc-uk.org/apply. Your application must include: a character reference; certified copies of two forms of ID; the registration fee. Students currently receive a 50% discount on the first two years registration.

11. You must renew your HCPC registration every two years
We will notify you three months before your registration ends. The quickest and most convenient way to renew your registration is online.

Students can find out more about the HCPC via the website at www.hcpc-uk.org. Visit the ‘students and prospective registrants’ section for relevant information and guidance.

21 August 2015

6 things you should know about the HCPC’s Education and Training Committee

Education Manager, Tracey Samuel-Smith, explains the key roles of our Education and Training Committee (ETC) and how their decisions can impact education providers.

The ETC is a statutory committee of the Council, and advises on matters relating to education, training and registration. Members of the Committee make up the Education and Training Panels who deal with visitor’s reports from the approval and monitoring processes. Their decisions directly impact education providers so it’s important to understand their role. 

Here’s six things that, as an education provider,
you should know about the ETC:

1. The Education and Training Committee consider recommendations from appointed visitors about whether a programme has met the appropriate standards.

2. The Education and Training Committee comprises six members of Council - three registrant and three lay members (in accordance with our Code of Corporate Governance). As such, not all of our regulated professions are represented on the Committee. Therefore they use visitor recommendations to make a final decision on programme approval and ongoing approval.

3. The Education and Training Committee will consider input from education providers, who have the opportunity to contribute to the decision-making process by submitting observations on any condition or recommendation in a visitors’ report. 

4. The Committee can vary any condition or recommendation in a visitors’ report. For example when they decide a condition exceeds threshold or is not relevant to a standard.

5. The Committee can withdraw approval from any education or training programme that closes or no longer meets our standards.

6. The Education and Training Panel sits ten times per year. Dates of panel meetings are available on the HCPC website. These dates should be considered by education providers planning a visit or undertaking a significant change to a programme.

For more information about the HCPC’s Education and Training Committee, visit www.hcpc-uk.org/aboutus/committees

14 August 2015

What happens if a concern is raised about me?

8 things you should know if a concern is raised about your fitness to practise.

1. The fitness to practise (FtP) process is not designed to punish registrants for past mistakes.

Rather, the process is designed to protect the public from those who are not fit to practise. Finding that a registrant’s fitness to practise is ‘impaired’ means that there are concerns about their ability to practise safely and effectively. In 2013-14, 1.2 per cent of social workers in England were subject to an FtP concern; a very small percentage, indicating that the vast majority of registrants are practising safely and effectively.
2. Your case will be allocated to a case manager.

If you find yourself the subject of a fitness to practise allegation, the case will be allocated to a case manager, who will remain neutral. They can explain how the FtP process works and what panels will consider when making their decisions. However they cannot advise you what to include in your response or how you should represent yourself.

3. We will give you an idea of how long our enquiries will take.

We understand that it can be stressful when an FtP concern is raised, and we will provide you with an idea of how long our enquiries will take at each stage of the process. In 2013-14 the length of time of cases referred for a hearing to conclude was an average of 17 and a median of 14 months from receipt of the allegation.

4. You can respond to the allegation in writing within 28 days. It is important to engage with the process so that you can give your side of events.

Once we have all the information we need, we will write to you with full details of the allegation that has been made plus copies of the documents we have collated. You are then invited to respond in writing within 28 days. If you need more time, your case manager can offer a 28-day extension, and if further time is required you can make a written application to the panel. 

5. You may find it helpful to get advice from your union, professional body or a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.

They will be able to provide advice on what to include in the response to the allegations which will be provided to the Investigating Committee Panel.

6. You are entitled to be represented throughout the process.

If the case is referred to a hearing, registrants are entitled to be represented, or can represent themselves, throughout the process. Information and guidance on the fitness to practise hearing process is available on our website, and explained in this useful YouTube video.

7. Cases are scheduled up to four months before the actual hearing.

We try to give registrants at least 60 days’ notice of the hearing date. We will also give you the material that we plan to rely on at the hearing 42 days beforehand. We ask registrants to provide their material 28 days before the hearing date.

8. Details of the hearing and allegations are published four weeks before the hearing is due to start.

We put this information on our website as the hearings are held in public. We do not put the information on the website more than four weeks before the hearing date to make sure we are acting fairly and balancing your rights with our role of protecting the public.

For more information download our brochure information ‘What happens if a concern is raised about me?’ or visit www.hcpc-uk.org/complaints/registrants