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Information on scope of practice

Summary

As a health and care professional, it is important you keep within your scope of practice at all times. This obligation is set out in our standards.

Standards of conduct, performance and ethics
You must keep within your scope of practice by only practising in the areas you have appropriate knowledge, skills and experience for (3.1)
You must refer a service user to another practitioner if the care, treatment or other services they need are beyond your scope of practice (3.2)

Standards of proficiency
You must be able to practise safely and effectively within their scope of practice (1)

We define your scope of practice as the limit of your knowledge, skills and experience. It is made up of the activities you carry out within your professional role, provided that you have the knowledge, skills and experience to do them lawfully, safely and effectively.

Determining what is and is not part of your scope of practice will be for you to decide using your professional judgement. Our standards of proficiency may inform your scope of practice, as well as your job description, employer policies and any guidance issued by your professional body.

Even if a role is outside of what might be traditionally expected for your profession, this doesn’t mean you cannot do this if you have the required knowledge, skills and experience. What is key is ensuring that you can perform a role safely and effectively.

Your scope of practice over time  

Your scope of practice may change over time, depending on how your practice develops. This might be because of specialisation in a certain area or movement into roles in management, education or research.

As your practice develops, you may be unable to demonstrate that you continue to meet all of the standards of proficiency for your profession. This will not be a problem, as long as you are practising safely and effectively within your own scope of practice.

How to decide your scope of practice

When deciding whether a particular activity falls within your scope of practice, or when moving into a new scope of practice, you will need to consider whether the training and support you’ve received adequately equips you to perform the activity safely and effectively.

You will also need to consider whether the activity falls within the general scope of practice of your profession. You may find it helpful to speak to your professional body who may be able to offer further advice in this area.

Your scope of practice may also depend on the limits of your job role, legal restrictions (such as prescribing) and whether you would be covered to undertake the activity by your professional indemnity insurance. If you are employed, your employer may be able to help you in this area.

FAQs on scope of practice

  • When moving into a new scope of practice you must consider whether your knowledge, skills and experience would be sufficient to perform the new scope of practice safely and effectively.

    If you have any gaps in your knowledge, skills and experience it is important you address them with additional training or support. The level of knowledge, skills and experience required for each role will be informed by your employer and professional body’s advice. Local guidance and policies may also set out training requirements for certain roles.

    You may also want to check that you have appropriate professional indemnity insurance to cover you in your new role.

  • A registrant can practice in a role which is not their protected title and remain registered with us, even if this new role has a narrower scope of practice. The HCPC does not penalise registrants simply because they are acting in a capacity that is more limited than their protected title.

    If you are practising in a narrower role than your protected title, we would expect you to work within the limits and expectations of that role. You might find it helpful to check your job description or to clarify this with your employer.

    The limits and expectations of your role would then form your particular scope of practice. You must make sure that you keep within your scope of practice and do not practise in areas which go beyond it.

    This might require you to limit the activities you perform or the skills you exercise to the activities or skills required by your job description (even if you would be qualified to undertake them if you were practising in your protected title). We would not criticise a registrant practising within a narrower scope of practice if they are working safely and effectively within the limits of their job description.

  • Firstly, you may wish to consider whether you could seek training and support to extend your scope of practice safely to include the new activity.

    If, however, you decide that the activity is outside of your scope of practice we would expect you to refrain from doing it. 

    This may also require you to raise your concerns if necessary. You can read more about raising concerns in our blog post and on this information page.

  • Our standards require our registrants to complete continuing professional development (CPD) relevant to their scope of practice.

    You can read our information on CPD for more information on scope of practice and CPD.

Additional resources on scope of practice

There is plenty of guidance available to help you determine what is and is not in your scope of practice:

  • We have created an information page on scope of practice in the context of COVID-19.
  • We have issued further information on our website, such as this blog on thinking through your scope of practice.
  • If you are a member, your professional body will be able to support you in establishing what forms part of your profession’s scope of practice and what sort of training you might need to get.
  • Your employer will also have its own policies in place about what sort of training is required for particular roles.
  • Your trade union can support you if you need to raise a concern about your employer.
Published:
28/09/2020
Resources
Learning material
Audience
Registrants, Students
Page updated on: 29/06/2018
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