Advice line Patient safety

Sally Gosling looks at why protection of title is crucial for patient safety

Protection of health care professions’ titles is key to upholding the public interest in how services are delivered. It also underpins the credibility of regulated professions, with adherence to correct processes being crucial to both patient safety and professions’ standing.   

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) holds and exercises powers for protecting the titles of each of the professions that it regulates.

These powers ensure only individuals eligible to use each title, and who hold current registration with the HCPC, can practise each profession.

Someone who uses a protected title or misleads the public about their professional status can be deemed to have committed an offence.

The titles protected for the physiotherapy profession in the UK are ‘physiotherapist’ and ‘physical therapist’, with ‘physio’ being treated by the HCPC in the same way as the full titles.

If an individual misleads the public by using a title, or purporting to be of that profession, when not qualified or registered to practise it, he or she can be deemed to have breached protection of title.

Likewise, an organisation can be seen to breach the law by giving misleading information about the individuals it employs, or with whom it contracts, to provide health care services.

Where possible breaches are reported, the HCPC explores them.

If there is evidence of an offence being committed, it issues a ‘cease and desist’ notice. Failure to comply with this may lead to a £5,000 fine.  

The HCPC can look into cases where a registrant may be misleading patients by practising beyond their scope of practice and competence and effectively purporting to be of another profession.

In addition, students and others preparing for admission (or readmission) to the register must not mislead others about their status.

This includes by not practising their (future) profession without appropriate supervision. 

Further information

See: HCPC Protection of title and: HCPC Prosecution Policy and also the Frontline article from the 17 July issue Advice Line on registration requirements. Sally Gosling  is CSP assistant director, practice and development

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