Regulation for hearing aid dispensers will be on the basis of protecting a professional title and also a protected function
This outlines the HCPC approach to the protected function but breach of the protected function constitutes a criminal offence and it is therefore possible for other organisations to prosecute individuals.
What is a protected function?
A protected function is a task, or series of tasks, which may only be carried out by an individual who is registered in the relevant profession by a statutory regulator. These tasks are sometimes also called ‘controlled acts’.
Hearing aid dispensers have a protected function. Only a hearing aid dispenser registered with the HCPC may:
- assess or test a person’s hearing; or
- prescribe a hearing aid for a person where the hearing aid dispenser or any other person intends to supply or provide a hearing aid by way of retail, sale or hire.
It is therefore a criminal offence for someone who is not HCPC registered as a hearing aid dispenser to assess or test a person’s hearing, even if the individual does not prescribe a hearing aid. Equally, it is a criminal offence for someone who is not HCPC registered as a hearing aid dispenser to prescribe a hearing aid, even if the individual does not assess or test a person’s hearing. Both offences only relate to where the hearing aid is supplied by retail sale or hire.
Only someone registered as a hearing aid dispenser may perform these controlled acts. Any individual not registered with the HCPC as a hearing aid dispenser, even if they are registered in another profession, would be committing a criminal act if they perform them.
How will the HCPC consider the protected function?
Any decision about whether an individual is committing a criminal offence by carrying out the functions outlined above without being HCPC registered is a matter for the courts. However, the HCPC takes the following broad approach to the protected function. Some examples of the types of activity included within the protected function are given below but these are not intended to be exhaustive.
Assessment includes taking an assessment of the hearing loss as well as the general history. Testing includes testing the individual’s hearing loss through processes like audiometry. Finally, prescribing includes taking the information gathered through the assessment and testing stage and then making decisions about which hearing aid is most appropriate for the individual.
Why do hearing aid dispensers have a protected function?
Hearing aid dispensers were regulated by the Hearing Aid Council (HAC) until 31 March 2010, when their regulation transferred to the HCPC. The HAC’s legislation created a protected function for hearing aid dispensers which only those registered with the HAC were able to carry out. When the government decided to move the statutory regulation of hearing aid dispensers from the HAC to the HCPC, they also decided that it was necessary for the HCPC to continue to protect a function to ensure public protection. By protecting these controlled acts, the HCPC’s powers are similar to those of the HAC.
Other professions regulated by the HCPC are regulated on the basis of protecting a professional title. This system of regulation allows flexibility and supports the development of a profession. It is only possible to protect a function where that function can be defined in legislation as discrete physical acts which are limited to members of a particular profession. Often, it is not possible to define a function in this way.
Students, trainees and NHS audiologists
A student or trainee who is on a programme approved by the HCPC for hearing aid dispensing is not committing a criminal offence if they carry out the acts identified above. For a list of approved programmes please click here.
We only regulate hearing aid dispensers who work in the private sector (where they are dispensing a hearing aid by retail sale or hire). Individuals who dispense hearing aids in the public sector (for example in the NHS) are not committing a criminal offence if they do so without being HCPC registered as a hearing aid dispenser. However, if they wanted to perform the acts outlined above in the private sector they would need to be HCPC registered as a hearing aid dispenser.
How to make a complaint
If you want to make a complaint about the misuse of titles this must be done in writing. We will need evidence to show that an offence being committed and this might be a brochure, leaflet or advertisement, a business card, invoice or letterhead or a directory entry or website. We will usually require a name and a contact details for the individual in order to be able to pursue the matter. You should include all relevant evidence with your complaint. Please send it to:Fitness to Practise Department
Health and Care Professions Council
184 Kennington Park Road
What we do
Our aim is to ensure ongoing compliance with the law. When we receive information that a protected title is potentially being misused, we contact the person or organisation concerned, explain the law and inform them that they should not use the title unless they are entitled to do so. Where there is evidence to show that an offence is being committed we will send a ‘cease and desist’ notice which sets out what action we will take if the person continues break the law. We may prosecute anyone who continues to misuse a protected title.
We have been working closely with organisations such as directory publishers to ensure that only HCPC registered professionals are allowed to advertise in the relevant sections of directories.
If you need any more information, please contact our Fitness to Practise Department.
Phone: 020 7840 9814
Fax: 020 7582 4874