20 November 2013

Understanding Public Protection

Because the fitness to practise is such an important part of the work we do to protect the public, it is an area we are constantly trying to increase our understanding of and a process we are always reviewing.


One important way we do this is through research. Today, we have released the data from our latest study, which shows that a fifth of UK adults have encountered behaviour from a health or care professional that made them doubt their fitness to practise.

The research also found:
  • More than a quarter said the health or care professional in question seriously or persistently failed to meet standards.
  • 16 per cent said they felt the professional failed to respect the rights of a patient to make their own choices. 
  • 13 per cent felt they were ‘hiding mistakes’.
  • 9 per cent felt they were exploiting vulnerable patients. 
  • One in twenty said they had experienced or witnessed reckless or deliberately harmful acts.
Despite these figures, just three out of ten reported their concerns and a further 73 per cent said they would not know where to go to report concerning behaviour.
This data supports our research published earlier this year exploring public perceptions of the concept of public protection and how this might inform the fitness to practise of health and care professionals. That research showed that the public was most concerned about dishonesty, both on and off duty, and had an expectation that, at a minimum, professionals would be competent and qualified.  Importantly, the public also thought that judgements should always consider the context of a situation and be made on a case-by-case basis.
The findings of both research reports are reassuring because we are dealing with the areas the public feel they need protecting from the most – skills and behaviour – and support the case-by-case approach we already take fitness to practise. See our latest annual report and key information for a look at what we have been doing over the past year to protect the public.
Improving the FTP process
In addition to making interesting reading for professionals and regulators alike, the findings of the research are helping us in a broader piece of work to improve the FTP process for all concerned, for example reviewing the information we provide about the process.
Earlier this year, we held an event with representatives from stakeholder organisations, including professional bodies, to discuss the research on public protection and explore how we can continue to do this. Some key themes emerged from the discussions. These included:
  • More and clearer information for employers and registrants explaining the difference between the FTP and other disciplinary or criminal proceedings.
  • Case studies indicative of FTP cases that could be used as learning and discussion points.
  • Clearer information for service users about what an FTP case looks like to help manage expectations on what we can and cannot deal with, as well as support and clear signposting for service users when they have a concern that is not a FTP issue.
  • Better integrated and more interactive information, including cross-referencing exiting documents and more video and multimedia content.
We will be looking at both the research and the feedback we have received so far as we continue our review of the FTP experience.

Brian James
Head of Assurance and Development, Fitness to Practise

- Today's research release
- Understanding public protection research, 2013

18 November 2013

A look back at the first year of social work programme approvals

When the Register for social workers in England opened on 1 August 2012, we became responsible for the 249 pre-registration social work programmes that had previously been approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC). To ensure these programmes meet our standards of education and training (SETs), we will visit each of these programmes to confirm their approval.

We held the first year of these approval visits during the 2012–13 academic  year and will continue with the visits for another two years As with all professions new to the HCPC, we have completed a review of this first year of approval visits to social work programmes.

Considering the other recent, non-regulatory changes in the social work education sector, we expected there would be significant changes to education providers’ social work provision.

One thing we saw was a twelve per cent reduction in the number of approved and transitionally approved programmes a year after the transfer. Of the 82 education providers running transitionally approved programmes at the point of transfer, 79 continued to deliver social work programmes, with three closing their social work provision entirely. The graph below shows how these closures have affected the split between approved undergraduate and postgraduate programmes over the last year. You can read more about these changes in the full paper, which you can view on our website here.

Comparison of programme numbers at the point of transfer and at the end of the 2012–13 – by qualification level

We also noted that there were significant changes to some programmes in areas such as curriculum design and delivery, and practice placements standards as they adapted to meet our standards, but also due to the recommendations of the Social Work Task Force, including The College of Social Work’s (TCSW) Professional Capabilities Framework.

Our review shows that the approval process was implemented effectively and that we have learned from the recent onboarding of other professions, such as hearing aid dispensers and practitioner psychologists. Specifically, as part of the preparation for the onboarding of the profession, we ensured that we worked closely with TCSW, holding regular meetings and developing a suggested agenda for joint approval / endorsement events.

In the full paper, we have provided detailed analysis about which standards had a higher number of conditions set, and have discussed reasoning for why we needed to set more conditions for these standards. Education providers, in particular those who have yet to have their visit, may find the full report useful in preparing for their own visits.

In particular, we have noted that many conditions were set in several of our broad SET areas, specifically those related to curriculum and assessment (SET 4 and 6), practice placements (SET 5), and programme management (SET 3). However, it is important to note that these are not issues that are specific to social worker programmes in meeting our standards. We expect to see conditions in these areas when onboarding any new profession or visiting new programmes from existing professions.

Number of conditions for social work programmes in 2012–13 – by broad areas of the standards of education and training

Where necessary, programmes have implemented changes to ensure our regulatory requirements are met. This shows that our standards, which are designed to be broad and flexible, can be applied across different professions and education programmes.

All social work programmes that we visited in the 2012-13 academic year have now successfully completed the approval process. The programmes now have ongoing approval confirmed, subject to satisfactory monitoring. We will continue to review the outcomes from our approval visits to social work programmes on a regular basis throughout the next two academic years.

Jamie Hunt
Education Manager


View the full review paper at www.hcpc-uk.org/assets/documents/100042FESWapprovalreview12-13.pdf

Find out more about our education processes at www.hcpc-uk.org/education/