27 February 2012

Student fitness to practise and registration – consultation ends 2 March 2012

Q. What risks do students training to be health and care professionals pose to the service users they come into contact with?

Q. How effectively do education providers deal with cases of poor conduct by students?

Q. How can we best make sure that students understand the responsibilities of them as future registrants?

Q. Should social work students (in England) continue to be registered?

These questions and more are discussed in our on-going consultation looking at student fitness to practise and registration.

We are seeking the views of all of our stakeholders on the most effective way of assuring the fitness to practise of students, including the registration of social work students in England. The consultation is being held partly because we will become responsible for regulating social workers in England from 1 August this year. Social work students are required to register with the General Social Care Council (GSCC) but the HPC does not currently register students.

Alongside the consultation, we also asked some researchers to undertake a review of the published literature in this area. This was so that we could build an increased understanding of the levels of risk from students in each of the 15 professions we regulate, and in social work, and benefit from any evidence about the best ways in which that risk might be managed. We will consider the research alongside the responses to the consultation.

The launch of the consultation prompted a renewed debate amongst the professions about the best way of managing student fitness to practise. In the social work field, Community Care reported on the potential costs if social work students continued to be registered. The General Social Care Council (GSCC) argued that registration of student social workers was crucial, in order to ‘uphold standards’ and because of the ‘unique risks associated with practice placements’.

In the consultation we have not made any specific proposals – for example, we have not proposed that social work students should or should not be registered. Instead, we wanted to stimulate discussion amongst all the professions on this topic, to help us reach an informed view on the best approach to take. So it is encouraging to see that in the professional press, in the conversations I have had with a wide range of stakeholders since we launched the consultation, and in the responses to the consultation we have received so far, we are hearing a wide range of different perspectives on this issue.

The consultation closes on 2 March 2012 and I would encourage anyone with an interest in this area to let us know what they think here.

Michael Guthrie
Director of Policy and Standards

Health Professions Council