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Supporting an environment for change

Education annual report 2016–17

We regulate 16 health and care professions to protect people using their services. Registered professionals meet our standards for their education and training, professional skills and behavior, and can practise legally using their protected title.

Anyone that wants to practise in one of these professions needs to a complete an approved programme before applying to join the Register.


How we approve and monitor programmes

We advise the Council on education and training and make all decisions related to the approval of education programmes. We comprise six members, four of whom are members of the Council, with at least one person experienced in professional education and training and at least two registrants, one of whom must have recently qualified.

We independently assess new programmes, annual monitoring audits, major changes and concerns. Visitors make recommendations to the Education and Training Committee about approval.

Managing programme assessments, we are first point of contact for education providers.


Executive summary

“I am delighted to present the Health and Care Professions Council’s Education annual report for the 2016–17 academic year. It is a chance to reflect on another year of progress, approving a diverse range of programmes delivered by a broad range of providers.”

Abigail Gorringe
Director of Education

Executive summary

  • An environment of change has characterised our work in recent years, and 2016–17 was no different. In this report we focus on three key changes that impacted on our work: changes to funding and workforce planning, meeting the service user and carer standard, and new professions training in prescribing. These are part of a wider of spectrum of change happening across the education sector.

    Broadly, this led to a 42 per cent rise in the number of new programmes we approved and more providers made significant changes to existing programmes. These changes affected the way we assessed programmes, the type of conditions recommended by visitors and the timescales they took to complete assessments. A key trend we have seen is a growing number of programmes delivered at a higher level than the threshold we require.

  • It is vital that we review our work so that we can operate in the most efficient way possible. The report also looks at steps we took to support improvement including the new quality assurance framework, our review of lay visitors’ input and the Education and Training Committee’s role in making sure that we uphold good practice in regulation.

  • Finally, we considered how we have worked with stakeholders over the year. We worked closely with various groups to revise the standards of education and training, and we connected more with learners through a range of new materials that aim to support understanding of our role as their regulator.

  • In 2017–18, we will continue to approve an even wider range of programmes, with organisations increasingly working in partnership to deliver them. We expect to see more varied training routes and new providers for Allied Health Professions following the reform to NHS bursaries, new degree apprenticeship programmes and more social work teaching partnerships.

    We will start assessing new programmes against the revised standards of education and training. This includes the new standards on using social media, having consent, being open and honest when things go wrong and reporting concerns. As is the case with any new standards we introduce, we can expect to see a high number of conditions on these areas and more cases where we need further evidence as providers adapt to the change. We will provide plenty of support to providers to help them in demonstrating the new standards.

    On 21 March 2018 the Council decided that the threshold level of entry to the Register for paramedics should be raised to Degree level. This decision will have a significant impact on our work as providers delivering programmes below this level will need to change to meet the new requirement, or close. During 2017–18 we would focus on communicating any change to paramedic providers.

    We also predict a rise in the number of new programmes we approve for entitlements that extend professionals’ scope of practice. In particular we expect to see new programmes for chiropodists / podiatrists to train in podiatric surgery and orthoptists to use exemptions under prescription medicines legislation, following changes that were introduced in 2016–17.

    Our work to improve the way we communicate with learners will also continue, with refreshed information on our website, a new leaflet for education providers to give learners in their welcome packs and a webcast, and we will begin research into stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of our education regulatory processes.


A word from our Committee chair

“In 2017–18 our focus will be to review how we assess programmes and consider how effective our methods are. This will be against the backdrop of an evolving educational landscape, so our challenge will be to understand how these changes will impact the work we do.”

Professor Stephen Wordsworth
Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Health, Educational and Social Care
Anglia Ruskin University



The year in numbers


Changes to funding and workforce planning

Over the last few years, changes in the education sector, including new sources of funding and workforce planning arrangements, have prompted education providers to offer a more diverse range of programmes.

These changes contributed to a small increase in the number of new programmes we approved and significant changes to existing ones.

Although the number of major changes we approved was consistent with the previous year, the complex nature of the changes is demonstrated by a 7 per cent rise in those that we needed to assess in more detail through an approval visit. Up 9 per cent from 2013–14.


The shift towards higher-level qualifications

Allied Health Professions (AHPs) are the third largest workforce in the NHS and we regulate 13 out of the 14 professions. In August 2017, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that nine of these professions would no longer receive NHS bursaries, with learners needing to access the student loan system instead. Increased competition meant that we saw a broader choice of training routes in these professions, particularly at higher levels.

For example, in 2016–17 we approved our first integrated Masters and Doctorate level programme for physiotherapists and most of the changes made by Bachelor Degree-level speech and language therapy programmes involved reducing the length of the programme from four years to three. This reflects an attempt to broaden the choice for learners.

Despite making up just seven per cent of the all approved programmes, paramedic programmes accounted for 19 per cent of major changes that we assessed through another visit – the largest of any profession. Education providers made significant changes to increase student cohort sizes and intakes, employing more experienced clinical and academic staff. This impacted our standards for programme management, resourcing and practice-based learning. We have seen a 17 per cent rise in conditions related to practice placements since 2013–14, which demonstrates the challenge faced by providers to offer appropriate placement opportunities to rising numbers of learners.

Paramedic programmes also made changes in response to the Paramedic Evidence Based Education Project (PEEP)’s recommendation that the threshold level of qualification should be raised to Degree. Eighty-six per cent of new paramedic programmes we approved were Bachelor Degree level, compared to 33 per cent on 2015–16. And all operating department practitioners programmes have been delivered at Bachelor Degree level since 2015–16, following new curriculum guidance introduced in 2011­ by the College of Operating Department Practitioners that recommended the change.

We also saw a significant change in the level of qualifications we approved for social workers in England. Continued funding for postgraduate student bursaries and fast-track routes, such as Step Up to Social Work, has led to a rise in new postgraduate Diploma and Masters level programmes for social workers in England. More providers also integrated teaching partnerships, working more closely with employers to deliver their training.


Reaching a decision

More complicated changes take longer to assess, so we saw a twelve per cent drop in major changes meeting our target timeframe of three months for visitors to recommend a decision, although this is still consistent with our average over five years.

This is against a backdrop of improvement across the other assessments, where we saw an increase of three per cent following approval visits and two per cent for annual monitoring audits, compared to the previous year.


Meeting the service user and carer standard

During the year we assessed the last wave of programmes against our new standard, requiring education providers to involve service users and carers in their programme, through annual monitoring. We have also been assessing new programmes against the standard since 2014. One of our most important policy changes in recent years, the standard embeds this vital perspective into the process of developing and delivering programmes.

We saw a marked improvement in providers’ understanding of how to meet the standard, following a series of workshops we ran and online guidance we published. Fewer programmes needed to meet conditions or provide further evidence before we could approve them.



New professions train in prescribing

Legislation introduced in October 2016 enables dietitians and therapeutic radiographers to train in prescribing. We asked education providers to submit adjustments as a major change, for us to assess and approve before they could start. Those that did respond met our standards without any difficulty.

However, providers did not take up the opportunity as we expected. Compared to chiropodist / podiatrists and physiotherapists in 2013–14, there were far fewer new programmes or major changes from these providers.

Our standards are robust and we assess programmes against them thoroughly, but on reflection it would have been proportionate to assess the changes through our routine monitoring.

By streamlining this process in future, we hope to encourage more providers to act on similar legislative changes.



Reviewing how we work

We are committed to assessing programmes thoroughly and reaching decisions as quickly as possible.

By reviewing the way we do this, we can strengthen the parts that work well and change those that are not. 2016–17 saw some big changes in this area, as Paula Lescott, Head of Systems and Quality, explains.

Reviewing how we work

  • Our new Systems and Quality team monitors the way we assess programmes, recommending improvements based on their findings. They do this by auditing individual cases to check that we are compliant with internal and external quality assurance requirements. The framework will play a key role in any improvements we make in the coming year.

  • One of the biggest changes we made was introducing lay visitors to or approval visit panels in 2017. This was to reflect the perspective of services users and their input makes a real difference to the work we do. We recently ran focus group and an internal review, to make sure lay visitors are fully prepared for their role on the panel.

  • We submit papers to the Education and Training Committee (ETC) to make sure we are operating efficiently and reacting appropriately to external changes. During the year, the Committee considered our plans to manage uncapped student numbers, following the proposed abolition of the bursaries system; our proposal for research into stakeholders’ views about our processes; and whether we should allow some programmes in physiotherapy from Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, to be added to an ‘international comparable qualifications’ list. 

    The ETC carefully considered all these issues and approved a plan to move forward.

  • Feedback from our stakeholders is incredibly important to us. The best way to tell us what you think is by responding to our biennial survey, which appeared in your inboxes in February 2018. Education providers can also provide at, or after, an approval visit or during monitoring.

    Visitors can do the same at their training days. Any of our stakeholders can contact us with feedback at any time at


Connecting with our stakeholders

Shaping the standards together

Our standards and guidance are used in various settings: by education providers designing programmes, visitors carrying out assessments, professional bodies who pass them on to their members and learners who are preparing to join the Register. When reviewing these important documents, it is vital that we work closely with our stakeholders to make sure they are fit for purpose.

In June 2017 we published the revised standards of education and training. The standards now require programmes to offer interprofessional education, involve learners in designing, delivering and reviewing programmes and support learners to raise a concern. They also make a stronger link to the standards of conduct, performance and ethics and include broader, more inclusive and up-to date-terminology which is in line with that used in the sector.

We started work to review the standards of education and training in 2014, asking for input and feedback from a range of stakeholders through a professional liaison group (PLG) and consultation. The PLG included service users, newly-qualified professionals, and leaders and decision-makers representing professional bodies, education providers and education sector organisations such as the Council of Deans of Health. Members discussed values in education, the changing nature of practice placements and research we commissioned about preparing learners for practice, to inform the changes they made. We gathered feedback from a wider group of education providers, registrants, service users, carers, visitors, learners and members of the public on the proposed changes through the public consultation in 2016.

Council approved the revised standards in March 2017. Once published, we promoted them to our stakeholders through a range of communication channels including social media, our blog and the Education Update newsletter, and ran a series of well-attended seminars that explored the changes in more detail. We received excellent feedback from those that attended.

“Standards development is an important regulatory function affecting the higher education sector. We welcome ongoing engagement with the HCPC and their approach to be open, transparent and collaborative with our sector.” 

Dr Katerina Kolyva
Executive Director Council of Deans of Health

The consultation

  • 218 responded
  • 41% of organisations were education providers

Measuring our success

  • 8,098 Standards downloads
  • 2,638 Guidance downloads
  • 129 Seminars attendees
  • 204 Twitter engagements
  • 2,450 Facebook users reached
  • 657 Blog clicks


Improved materials for learners

It is important that we connect with learners at this early stage, before they join our Register. Over the year we improved our support for learners, including materials to support their understanding of the standards of conduct, performance and ethics (SCPEs) which we revised and published in January 2017.

Animated scenarios

This resource was released with the revised SCPEs, bringing them to life through real-life scenarios that professionals might face in their day-to-day work. It focuses on four new standards about using social media, having consent, being open when things go wrong and reporting concerns.

“The animations are a short, punchy and engaging way for learners to begin thinking about conduct and ethics in practice-based learning environments. They’re a must-watch for learners, registered professionals and educators alike.” 

Dr Jonathan Isserow 
Head of Partnerships and Convenor MA Art Psychotherapy, University of Roehampton



Live webcast

In March 2017 we held a webcast to discuss how the SCPEs apply to learners and the process to join the Register. Viewers also submitted questions which we answered live. The webcast had the highest number of views of any of our webcasts to date.


“Really useful information on registering, where to find documents, what to send and how much. Practical and useful advice that we are not told about in lectures.” 


  • 543 people watched live
  • 1,338 viewed it on YouTube


New release of the myHCPC app

We released a new version of our myHCPC app in March 2017, with features that make it easy for learners to learn about how they are regulated. It includes a new easy-to-navigate home screen, bookmarking tool, and instant access to all of sets of standards and guidance.

“It is a brilliant resource! Guidance is readily available without having to search online. I often refer to the standards when doing my assignments and I like keeping up to date with current news, which is all there in the app.” 

Michelle, Student

“The app is very useable and useful. Information is accessible, with good graphics and illustrations.”

John Donaghy
Senior Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University


Education Report
Registrants, Students, Education providers
Page updated on: 22/03/2021