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HCPC responds to BEIS call to evidence on professional qualifications and regulation of professionals

27 Oct 2020

Over the course of the last year, we have seen an incredible level of hard work and dedication from the health and care professionals on our register, during an incredibly challenging time.  

As with all regulators and professional bodies across the UK, our focus throughout the pandemic has been ensuring that we have a qualified, well-trained and supported workforce, able to meet the demands of the last year. However, we are now looking to the future and the likely impact of Brexit on the professions we regulate. It is with this in mind that we recently responded to the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy's call to evidence on the recognition of professional qualifications and regulation of professionals.

In our response to this call to evidence, we focussed on two priority areas: Recognition of International Qualifications and Regulatory Reform.

Recognition of International Qualifications

In suggesting priorities for the UK Government on ways to recognise international qualifications, we emphasised the importance of the HCPC retaining the ability to set our own standards for the health and care professions we regulate. Our standards must be up to date so they can be fit for purpose and, allow us to effectively regulate our professions and protect the public. We must also be able to retain our current English language requirements

Currently, all international applicants are assessed against the HCPC’s Standards of proficiency.

It is important to maintain UK standards and any change in this approach that might require us to match with other varying standards set internationally, could compromise this. For this reason, we expressed concerns that an automatic system of regulation, where we would have to automatically consider a certain countries’ education as comparable, may not be ideal. We want to keep our standards aligned with the unique needs of the UK health and care sector and the advancements our professions have recently made.

However, we are supportive of our registrants practising in other countries. The UK health and care sector, and the patients and service users it supports, hugely benefit from internationally trained health and care professionals who come to practise in the UK, and we are supportive in facilitating this exchange.

We currently issue guidance on how registrants can practise overseas on our website and we also provide registrants with a certificate, confirming their professional status. In Europe, this takes the form of a European Certificate of Current Professional Status.

To understand the full impact of mutual recognition, we believe it is important for the UK Government to engage with the professional bodies for our professions. The Government should also engage members of the professions, including students currently training on UK programmes, to understand the appetite for overseas practice.

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Regulatory reform

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we made considerable changes to our registration processes to create temporary registers and allow registrants to apply by email. We also began a review of our standards and guidance, something which we do at least every five years to ensure they remain up to date and reflect current practice. These two elements were a key part of our response to BEIS’ question around ensuring the regulation of professions is forward looking, adaptive and meets the needs of consumers, in our case, patients and service users.

Our regulatory functions are regularly reviewed. For example, in January 2019, we introduced a new Threshold Policy for Fitness to Practise. This changed how we consider concerns coming into the Fitness to Practise process and how we make decisions regarding if we should undertake a full investigation.

Additionally, the Department of Health and Social Care is currently leading on Regulatory Reform for our sector. They are looking at professional healthcare regulators and how we operate and are exploring making legislative changes to allow for new processes in areas such as Fitness to Practise.

We are currently determining what legal changes we would like to make through the DHSC’s review of regulatory reform. At a strategic level, our priorities are to have reformed legislation which:

  • places a greater emphasis on supporting professionalism, while continuing to take proportionate action to manage concerns about a minority of professionals;
  • provides greater autonomy to set our own operating processes and procedures, including rule making powers, to enable us to be agile when responding changes to the environment in which our registrants operate;
  • ensures broadly equivalent powers to ensure consistency;
  • has effective and modern governance underpinned by openness and transparency;
  • ensures registrant’s rights remain protected; and
  • maintains the public protection imperative.

Overall, it is very important that public protection underpins any future regulation and mutual recognition of healthcare professionals. The UK’s standards are evidence based and developed through stakeholder engagement to assess what is required for our health and care sector. It is vital this is not undercut by any trade negotiations, which may see mutual recognition used as a trading tool. We continue to welcome continued dialogue with BEIS and the UK Government as proposals and future trade deals in this area develop.

For more information read our full response to BEIS

Page updated on: 27/10/2020