Health and Care Professions Council raising the standards

The HCPC is introducing updates to its standards that will impact on members’ preparation for renewal. CSP professional advisers Jackie Lidgard and Clare Aldridge outline the changes 

Illustration of examining the standards

Alert to all members! 

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) standards of proficiency for physiotherapists are changing – to take effect from 1 September. 

All registered members must be aware of these changes and be able to demonstrate their practice meets the new standards from this date. 

Why are the standards important?

Since 2001 the HCPC has set standards for conduct, performance, ethics and continuing professional development (CPD) as well as proficiency for physiotherapists along with the other professions it regulates. It keeps a register of professionals known as ‘registrants’ who, by meeting these standards, are allowed to practice under a protected title as a physiotherapist in the UK. The HCPC can also investigate concerns about a registrant’s fitness to practice.

The standards are necessary to assure the safe and effective practice of physiotherapists and play an important role in protecting the public. They describe what physiotherapists must know, understand, and be able to do, both at the time they apply to join the register and at the biennial point of renewal, when a percentage of physiotherapists are selected for CPD audit.

The standards are therefore essential to all practising physiotherapists, because they form the baseline against which a registrant will be judged should a fitness-to-practice complaint be made against them. Failure to meet the standards could therefore result in sanctions from the HCPC – including being removed from the register. 

They are also relevant to students undertaking pre-registration studies who need to be aware of standards they will be held to when practising. 

What will be different?

Following HCPC’s consultation process, the changes move away from physiotherapists passively understanding the standards to a requirement to actively demonstrating the standards in practice.

Following feedback from the consultation, more focus has been put on the following areas:

  • equality, diversity, and inclusion
  • centralising role of the service-user
  • promoting public health and preventing ill-health
  • registrant’s mental health
  • digital skills and new technologies
  • leadership at all levels of practice

What should you be doing?

Start to familiarise yourself with the forthcoming changes in the standards. Each registrant has a personal responsibility and accountability to be able to demonstrate they are meeting the new standards from 1 September.

Start to work through the HCPC gap analysis tool, which will help you identify where the gaps are in your practice, and help ensure you are meeting the standards.

The HCPC advises

A registrant’s particular scope of practice may mean that they are unable to continue to demonstrate that they meet all the standards of proficiency that apply for the whole of their profession. As long as they make sure they are practising safely and effectively, within their given scope of practice, and do not practise in the areas where they are not proficient to do so, this will not be a problem.

Standards should be applied within your scope of practice. For example, if you are a physiotherapist working in a non-patient-facing role, you will not be expected to demonstrate standard 14.6 – understand and be able to apply appropriate moving and handling techniques – as this is not part of your role.

What is my employer’s responsibility? 

It is your employer’s responsibility to be aware of the changes and create an environment where registrants can meet the new standards – this may include opportunities to discuss these as part of supervision, team meetings and/or CPD opportunities to support registrants to be up and running with the standards by September.

What is the HCPC doing to support registrants?

HCPC has information pages and resources to support registrants’ understanding of the changes and have produced a table comparing the current and new standards. They are also running a series of webinars, details of which can be found on the HCPC website. 

What is the CSP doing to support members?

Between now and the implementation of the updated standards, we will be running a series of articles in Frontline, breaking down some of the changes and demonstrating how they apply to practice. Alongside this, we will signpost members to resources to support your understanding of the new standards, and to help evidence your achievement of them. We will develop a web page, where these resources are held in preparation for both the standards coming into effect and the physio re-registration cycle with HCPC in early 2024. 

Professional Advice team

The CSP’s Professional Advice Service gives advice and support to members on complex and specialist enquiries about physiotherapy practice, including professional practice issues, standards, values and behaviours, international working, service design and commissioning, and policy in practice.

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