Health and Social Care Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Health Professions Council (HS 52)

Summary

1. The Health Professions Council (HPC) is pleased to make this submission to the Health and Social Care Bill Committee. In our submission to the Committee we have addressed issues surrounding the ‘Regulation of healthcare professions and health and social care workers’, which is Part 7 of the Bill. Our submission examines the implications of the relevant sections and how it will alter the current system of regulation. One of the main aspects of the Bill is the change in the regulation of social workers in England. We will continue to develop and maintain good working relationships with the General Social Care Council (GSCC) and the social care regulators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure consistency in regulation across the UK.

2. The HPC is an independent UK-wide statutory regulator for 15 professions working in the NHS, education, the community and independent practice. Our focus is on the protection of the public and we do this by maintaining a register of professionals who meet established standards for training, professional skills, behaviour and health.

3. On the following pages we address Part 7 of the Bill comprising Clauses 193 to 215 by which the Health and Social Care Bill affects the HPC. We support the Bill and look forward to continuing to work closely with stakeholders across the UK during the process of implementation. Should the Committee wish for any further information we will be happy to provide it.

Introduction

4. The Department of Health’s (DH) July 2010 White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, was followed by the Report of the Arm’s-Length Bodies Review which detailed the intention to move the regulation of social workers in England from the General Social Care Council (GSCC) to the Health Professions Council (HPC). The overall objective is to make the regulation of social workers in England financially independent of government.

Transfer of regulatory functions

5. The working timetable is to complete the transfer of the Register of Social Workers to the HPC by April 2012, as stated in the Report of the Arm’s-Length Bodies Review. The HPC is working closely with the GSCC on this process and the objective is to deliver a smooth transition which ensures the protection of the public.

Other professions

6. The HPC has a strong track record in working with professional and regulatory bodies in this regard. In September 2004 the HPC assumed responsibility for the regulation of Operating Department Practitioners after working closely with the College of Operating Department Practitioners. In July 2009 it commenced regulation of Practitioner Psychologists, transferring voluntary Registers held by the British Psychological Society and Association of Educational Psychologists to the HPC Register. Most recently in April 2010 the HPC assumed responsibility for the regulation of hearing aid dispensers after the abolition of the Hearing Aid Council. Prior to and during the transfer of responsibilities, the HPC and the above bodies established good working relationships; the HPC is committed to replicating the quality of these relationships with the social work profession, employers, education providers, user groups and other stakeholders, as well as the regulatory councils in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Issues

Registration costs

7. The registration fee for the GSCC currently stands at £30 per annum, this would be much higher if the GSCC were to operate on a full-cost recovery basis as an independent regulatory body and higher than the £76 annual fee for HPC registrants. The Health and Social Care Bill 2011 Impact Assessment outlines the cost of registration for social workers if GSCC was fully funded by fees from its registrants and with no Government subsidy. Fees would have to rise by a cost of between £210 and £250 on top of the fees currently paid [1] . Registering with the HPC will therefore be more economical than if the GSCC were to continue but without financial support from government; HPC also has one of the lowest regulatory registration fees.

8. Some registrants will qualify for a discount on fees. For example, newly qualified graduates receive a 50 per cent reduction in the fee in their first two professional years. Fees for registrants who live and work in England will be tax-deductible.

Student registration

9. The HPC does not currently register students, unlike the GSCC. However, through its standards, guidance and approved education courses, students are regulated by HPC. HPC provides guidance on conduct and ethics for students and requires all education providers delivering relevant programmes to operate disciplinary processes for students aiming to enter the professions which it regulates.

10. The Health and Social Care Bill proposes regulatory powers for HPC to establish a voluntary register for students. HPC will carry out an impact assessment and a consultation with stakeholders later this year looking at the issue of student registration and specifically whether social work students should be registered. The Council will then make a formal decision on the issue.

Setting standards for the profession

11. The HPC has formed a Working Group which is preparing draft standards of proficiency for social workers in England as well as the threshold level of qualification for entry to the Register. The group consists of twelve members including individuals from relevant social work stakeholder organisations as well as four HPC members. This work commenced on 14 January and will include a full consultation on the proposed standards.

New name for the Health Professions Council

12. The Health and Social Care Bill proposes that the HPC be renamed the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to reflect the expanded remit that is proposed. A strap line will be used to clearly communicate the range of professions that will be regulated: ‘Regulating health, psychological and social work professionals’

13. There has been a positive response from stakeholders about the incorporation of the word "care" in the new name as it better reflects the range of professions that are regulated. In research conducted by Ipsos MORI and GfK NOP, 81% of the general public felt that ‘Health and Care Professions Council’ would best reflect the role of a regulator of many different professions. 76% of the general public associated the term ‘care professional’ with ‘social worker’. As a UK-wide regulator a Welsh translation of the name will be used in Wales.

UK wide registration

14. The registration of social workers in the UK is devolved and each of the four countries has its own regulator. These proposals only relate to regulation in England. The professions which the HPC currently regulates are UK-wide. The social work profession will be the only profession which the proposed HCPC will regulate in England alone.

15. HPC is experienced in working with the devolved administrations in regards to engaging with registrants and stakeholders. Clause 199 of the Health and Social Care Bill places a duty on HPC to co-operate with other Care Councils. HPC has begun working with the social work regulators in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. HPC will continue to develop good communications to ensure consistency in decision making and to ensure public protection is provided across the UK.

16. HPC will enable social workers registered with Care Councils outside of England to practice in England on a temporary basis. Options regarding the temporary registration of social workers outside England are currently being examined.

Appeals:

17. Fitness to practise appeals for social workers are currently heard by the Care Standards Tribunal but this will change with transfer of social work regulation. The Health Professions Order provides that appeals against decisions regarding fitness to practise are made to the High Court. This is consistent across all 15 HPC registered professions and the other healthcare regulators.

February 2011


[1] E73. p125, ‘ Health and Social Care Bill 2011 Impact Assessments’ Department of Health