News & Insights
Anthony James looks at the Health and Care Professions Council’s new standards of proficiency for each of the 15 professions it regulates, which came into force on 1 September 2023.
Each profession regulated by the HCPC has its own set of standards. Practitioners must meet all of the standards to register with the HCPC and must continue to meet those standards to remain registered. The standards are particularly relevant during fitness to practise proceedings, where the alleged conduct of registrants will be looked at in light of them when deciding if the statutory ground of misconduct is made out.
There are both generic standards that apply to all professions and standards that specifically apply to the different professions. The below focuses upon the generic standards as those have seen some of the most significant changes.
1.2 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to recognise the need to manage their own workload and resources safely and effectively, including managing the emotional burden that comes with working in a pressured environment.
The wording of “emotional burden” is a new addition. This specificity and particularly in relation to wellbeing, is repeated in other changes through the standards.
2.1 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct.
This is notable as it appears to be quite a high bar to which to hold new entrants to the professions.
2.3 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to understand the importance of safeguarding by actively looking for signs of abuse, demonstrating understanding of relevant safeguarding processes, and engaging in processes where necessary.
It is significant here that the Standards have added considerable detail to what was previously a non-specific standard of understanding the importance of engaging “in appropriate safeguarding processes”. This shows a clear emphasis on the need to understand not only safeguarding processes, but also the underlying signs. For professionals such as paramedics, who are often the first on scene in dynamic situations such as potential crime scenes, this will be particularly relevant.
2.11 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to recognise the power imbalance which comes with being a health care professional, and ensure they do not abuse this for personal gain.
This is an entirely new standard and it is noteworthy there was not, before the changes, a standard specifically addressing professional boundaries.
This whole standard has been significantly altered to move away from generalised wording on maintaining fitness to practise and now specifically mentions looking after health and wellbeing.
There is specific mention of “wellbeing strategies” in New Standard 3.2 and “mental self-care” in New Standard 3.4. This reflects the regulator’s view that maintaining one’s health must be in both the physical and mental health contexts, and places an emphasis on prevention through wellbeing.
5.1 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to respond appropriately to the needs of all different groups and individuals in practice, recognising this can be affected by difference of any kind including, but not limited to, protected characteristics, intersectional experiences and cultural differences.
This Standard has introduced the express need for registrants to be aware of the Equality Act 2010 and its impact on practice. This is repeated in Standard 7.3 regarding verbal and non-verbal communication.
5.3 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to recognise the potential impact of their own values and beliefs and personal biases (which may be unconscious) on practice and take personal action to ensure all service users and carers are treated appropriately with respect and dignity.
The clear change here is the insertion of personal biases, which was not previously included. One would expect a degree of training as regards such unconscious biases before registrants enter the profession.
New Standards 5.4, 5.5, 5.6
These Standards refer to reasonable adjustments and barriers to inclusion. None of this was previously included in the old standards. This places a positive obligation on registrants to be vigilant to such issues.
6.4 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to understand the need to ensure confidentiality is maintained in all situations in which service users rely on additional communication support (such as interpreters or translators).
6.5 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to recognise that the concepts of confidentiality and informed consent extend to all mediums, including illustrative clinical records such as photography, video and audio recordings and digital platforms.
These two helpful additions make it abundantly clear the perhaps less clear-cut situations in which the duty of confidentiality applies.
8.2 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to recognise the principles and practices of other health and care professionals and systems and how they interact with their profession.
8.5 At the point of registration, [registrants] must be able to identify anxiety and stress in service users, carers and colleagues, adapting their practice and providing support where appropriate.
These two Standards place a considerable burden on registrants to be alive to the practices of other professions and the signs of anxiety and stress.
Standards 8.7 to 8.11 have been inserted as new standards regarding the demonstrating of leadership skills and acting as a role model for others.
Considerable and detailed material on the specific professions has been added. These will act as a helpful reference guide to registrants of the knowledge base expected on entry into the profession.
This is an entirely new standard and places an obligation on registrants, among other things, to understand how social, economic and environmental factors (wider determinants of health) can influence a person’s health and wellbeing. This acts in tandem with other changes, which expect registrants to be aware of the issues of inequality and inclusion.
When one considers that the standards are those which should be reached at the time of registration, it is useful that so much detail has been added in the form of amendments and indeed sections which are entirely new.
However, the standards also include what are likely to be complex obligations regarding the Equality Act, safeguarding and wellbeing. It will be interesting to see whether future fitness to practise proceedings are brought on the basis of breaches of those standards and indeed how the regulator and FtP panels will approach them.
Anthony James accepts instructions in the areas of crime and professional regulation. He is often instructed by both the regulator and registrants. Anthony has previously written about evidence in regulatory tribunals and recently hosted our webinar on fitness to practise proceedings before the HCPC.
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