On 29 July, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) launched its campaign to recruit a new Council. This rose from a government directive that all UK professional regulatory bodies for health and care create smaller, ‘more board like’ governance structures. The General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Dental Council have already made this change. Over the last 7 years, HCPC has moved from a Council of 26 appointed and elected members and 13 alternate members (39 in total), to 20 appointed members. It is now moving to an appointed Council of 12 members.
HCPC has enjoyed a period of substantial growth under the direction of a strong and cohesive Council. We must maintain our UK wide focus and ensure that we recruit individuals who provide the strategic and financial oversight required. I have no doubt that we will continue to attract individuals with a wide range of skills and expertise from different arenas including service user advocacy, social care, health and psychological services, education, commerce and finance.
We also need individuals who can engage with the big, difficult issues facing public services. Recent events have revealed serious breaches of public trust and confidence in the governance of health and social care providers. Mid Staffordshire, Winterbourne, Ash Grove, Gwent, Vale of Leven and Rochdale all point towards serious failures of governance as well as failures of care. There will continue to be conversations around the HCPC table about these failures and how and why they occurred and what can be done to mitigate the risk of such failures occurring in other contexts. No-one in health and social care regulation can be complacent and HCPC has a shared responsibility with other regulators to make improvements.
The move to a smaller Council also creates the space to think about the underpinnings of good governance. We need people with a range of skills and expertise and big picture thinking, but we also need to create a governing body with shared values. One of the themes across a range of guidance documents on governance (1-4) is fidelity to values. This means not simply being able to articulate the seven principle of public life, (4) but to have an appetite to re-visit what they mean on a day to day basis, how they impact on relationships, decision making, outcomes. How they can challenge and create conflict. How they influence the culture of the organisation at every level.
It is the combination of skills, expertise and the values of public service that are critical to this new Council. We need individuals who can hold the purpose of professional regulation at the centre of corporate decision making. That purpose is to provide public protection for those who use the services of professionals on the HCPC Register. Clarity of purpose, fidelity to core values are key.
Anna van der Gaag
1. Carver, J. (2006) Boards that make a Difference. Jossey-Bass, California
2. Independent Commission on Good Governance in Public Services (2004)
3. PSA (2013) Fit and Proper? Governance in the public interest.
4. Committee on Standards in Public Life (2013) Standards matter: a review of best practice in promoting good behaviour in public life.