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Supervision and delegation

This information aims to support registrants in understanding how to apply the following Standards of conduct, performance and ethics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

4.1 You must only delegate work to someone who has the knowledge, skills and experience needed to carry it out safely and effectively.

4.2 You must continue to provide appropriate supervision and support to those you delegate work to.

Meeting HCPC standards in a challenging environment

We recognise that many of you are working in extremely challenging and possibly unfamiliar environments as part of the response to COVID-19. You will be balancing multiple competing demands, including how to supervise and support your colleagues. 

Despite pressures, it is still important that whenever you delegate you do so safely and effectively. This means ensuring you only delegate work within that person’s scope of practice and continue to provide appropriate supervision and support to them.

What is appropriate will differ in the current circumstances. Our standards apply at all times but are not prescriptive and allow for flexibility in how they are met within different operational and clinical contexts, such as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our advice below, our page on supervision, leadership and culture and our information sheet on scope of practice will help you to think about appropriate and achievable supervision which can be provided at the moment.

Advice for those providing supervision or delegating work

You may have concerns about how to delegate work appropriately and about the level of supervision and support you are required to provide, especially if you have recently started a new role and now have to supervise others. 

You should only take on supervision if it is within your scope of practice.  We expect you to use your professional judgement in making decisions about delegation and supervision and to seek advice as necessary from colleagues, your manager or your professional body.  We expect those of you in a supervisory role who work in a different profession from the supervisee to seek advice and support from senior colleagues in your supervisee’s profession as appropriate.

Advice for those receiving supervision or being delegated work to

You may have recently started a new role and want to know what level of supervision and support to expect.  You may be particularly concerned about this if you are a final year student asked to take on a frontline role sooner than you would have normally done.

Our standards recognise that anyone moving into a new role will need to receive appropriate training and support which might include supervision.  In addition, if work is being delegated to you, the person who has delegated that work will need to continue to provide appropriate supervision and support. Our registrants in supervisory roles are expected to make that available within their scope of practice and as circumstances allow.

COVID-19 may mean that support and supervision take different forms from what you might usually expect. You still need to ensure you get the right level of support to practice safely and effectively.

If you feel you are receiving insufficient support, you should raise this with your supervisor or manager in the first instance and escalate as necessary, seeking advice from your trade union or professional body where appropriate. You can read more on how to raise concerns here.

You may find the Chief Allied Health Professionals Officers’ statement helpful in understanding what you should expect.  It reminds employers that they should adhere to the requirements for placement and ongoing educational support for students.  This should include appropriate consideration of how they will be supervised.

The benefits of supervision

When work is more pressured, you may find it harder to provide supervision, if you are a supervisor, or find your employer is less willing to arrange this for you.

Wherever possible, we would encourage employers to continue supervision. The benefits of supervision are particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic when registrants are facing unprecedented demands. Supervision can help to identify and resolve problems, support continuing professional development and quality assurance of professional practice, and help to look after registrants’ well-being. 

Effective supervision

We recently commissioned Newcastle University to undertake research into what makes clinical and peer supervision effective. You can find the published research report on our website. The following may be particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Sharing/enhancing knowledge and skills supports professional development and improves service delivery.
  • Effective supervision can help to reduce stress and anxiety, creating a more supportive work environment and lead to improved patient care.
  • Flexibility is important and you may need to develop new approaches to supervision to respond to the demanding operational environment and the emotional strain colleagues may be experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Supervisors should be willing to meet on an ad hoc basis to respond to staff issues, although this may be more challenging in the current circumstances.
  • Supervision is most effective when offered regularly; this is especially relevant when facing extreme operational demands.

Keeping up to date

Many of the professional bodies publish additional advice and guidance on supervision. The professional bodies with whom we work are listed here.

Third year students joining the temporary register may find their education provider has also published advice and guidance on what to expect. Individual employers may have done so too, so please check the relevant websites for updates.

Page updated on: 17/04/2020