HCPC standards for physiotherapists

Since 2001, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has set standards for conduct, performance and ethics as well as proficiency for physiotherapists, along with the other professions it regulates. 

The HCPC standards are necessary to assure the safe and effective practice of physiotherapists, and play an important role in protecting the public. They describe what physios must know, understand and be able to do, both at the time they apply to join the register and at the biennial point of re-registration when a percentage of physios are selected for CPD audit.  
The HCPC keeps a register of professionals known as ‘registrants’ who, by meeting these standards, are allowed to practise under a protected title as a physiotherapist in the UK. The HCPC can also investigate complaints when concerns are raised about a registrant’s fitness to practise.

The standards are essential to all practising physios because they form the baseline against which a registrant will be judged should a fitness-to-practise complaint be made against them. Failure to meet the standards could therefore result in sanctions from the HCPC – including being removed from the register. The standards are also relevant to students undertaking pre-registration studies who need to be aware of and ready to meet the standards when they qualify and start practising.   

As well as a high level framework against which physios can measure their practice. The standards can be useful tools to help problem solve and sense check day-to-day decisions, to influence change and improve patient care and the patient experience, as well as to help assure or sense check our personal development plans.

2023 changes to the standards of proficiency

On 1 September 2023 HCPC standards of proficiency for physiotherapists were updated.

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

What has changed?  

Following the HCPC’s consultation process, the changes move away from physios passively understanding the standards to a requirement that they can actively demonstrate the standards in practice.  
More focus has been put on the following areas: 

  • Equality, diversity, and inclusion  
  • Centralising the role of the service-user  
  • Promoting public health and preventing ill-health
  • Registrants’ mental health  
  • Digital skills and new technologies  
  • Leadership at all levels of practice  

Familiarise yourself with the updated standards

This Frontline article is packed with advice and resources, including guidance from the HCPC

Go to the HCPC website to compare the updated and old standards. This page includes a Gap Analysis Tool – to help you identify where there may be shortfalls in your practice or knowledge, and direct you toward your next steps to ensure you are meeting the standards.

Other HCPC resources:

What if the new proficiency standards are not all relevant for your role? 

The HCPC advises that 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. It says that: “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”.  
This means standards should be applied within your scope of practice. For example, if you are 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 should your employer be doing?

It is your employer’s responsibility to be aware of the changes and create an environment where you can meet the new standards. This may include opportunities to discuss these as part of supervision, team meetings and/or CPD opportunities to support you to demonstrate the standards in your practice.  
If you require help in requesting more support from your employer, please contact your workplace CSP steward. 

Those with no workplace CSP steward should contact our ERUS team via CSP enquiries team:  

Standards of conduct, performance and ethics update on 1 September 2024

The HCPC standards of conduct, performance and ethics are the ethical framework within which HCPC registrants must work; they apply across all 15 of the HCPC regulated professions so are not profession specific.

Across the end of 2022 and the first half of 2023, the HCPC ran a broad ranging consultation process asking how the standards of conduct performance and ethics should be updated to reflect modern practice. The consultation was open to individual registrants as well as organisations and included a response from the CSP.

Following the consultation period, along with the HCPC guidance on social media, the standards of conduct, performance and ethics have been revised. The updated standards will come into effect for registrants from 1 September 2024.

The HCPC will also be running a series of events and developing supportive resources on the run up to the 1 September 2024 to support registrant's readiness to take the changes into practice.

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