14 February 2014

HCPC seminar series asks: Who are your service users?

The new standard of education and training

Following research in 2012 and consultation last year, we have decided to amend the standards to require the involvement of service users and carers in all approved programmes. This recognises the important role this involvement plays in ensuring students are fit to practise at the point they complete their programmes and join the Register.

The new standard states: "Service users and carers must be involved in the programme."

Service user and carer involvement seminars

To introduce the new standard support education and training providers, we have held a series of seminars throughout the UK.

At these seminars, delegates were given a brief overview of the new standard and what it means for them as education providers, before undertaking some group activities to determine who they can involve in their programme and how. Education providers were given the unique opportunity to play the HCPC’s ‘Service User and Carer Card Game’.

For this, delegate groups were given a series of cards detailing fictional characters and asked to decide who would be service users or carers for a certain HCPC profession, under the new standard’s guidance. Taryn, a barmaid who participates in research studies, and Charles, a welfare benefits solicitor, were just two of the 26 characters, who each sparked some thought-provoking questions and discussions between delegates, such as:
  • Are the service users and carers necessarily individuals or can they be groups or organisations?
  • Are they all direct users of the services for a profession or can the perspectives of those indirectly affected by the work of health and care professionals be relevant?
  • Are they the end users of a service or might intermediate users of services, such as other professionals, also have valuable contributions?
  • And to what extent can different groups or individuals get involved in an education and training programme?
“The game was a great way to think about who service users and carers might be. I’d like to bring it back to my own team.”
Using scenarios, delegates then built on these themes, comparing possible approaches that education programmes might take and looking at some of the potential barriers and benefits that may arise.
Recruitment, support, representativeness and avoiding tokenism were all topics for consideration, whilst also looking at the appropriateness of involvement activities in the context of the other SETs.

The seminars also featured videos to encourage reflection and discussion around the theme, which triggered some delegates to consider the use of digital media and platforms in embedding service user and carer contributions in education or training programmes.

Service user representatives attended some sessions, enriching the discussions with invaluable insights into the education and training of professionals from their perspective.

The seminars proved an important opportunity for education providers to share their experiences with representatives from other professions and programmes, and talk to us about our expectations for the new standard.

“I found the activities very thought provoking.”
“I have learned a great deal about the HCPC today as well.”

Service user and carer involvement and you

What do you think are some of the approaches you could take to involve service users in your own programme? What are some of the challenges? Do you have experience with a successful way to involve service users? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Nicola Baker
Education Officer

  • Download a copy of the new standard and supporting guidance here [PDF]. 
  • We will be rolling out the new standard on a phased basis and will apply as follows.
    • From 2014–15 - new programmes, transitionally approved programmes and programmes requiring a visit as a result of a major change or annual monitoring submission.
    • From 2015–16 - all other approved programmes, including prescribing programmes, formally assessed through annual monitoring
    • Immediately -  Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) programmes at approval visits.
  • If you have any questions about the new standard and what it means for education and training providers, please contact us at education@hcpc-uk.org 
  • Education seminars take place each year on relevant topics for education and training providers. You can find out more information here.

11 February 2014

A journey of a thousand small steps: Thinking about competence in a different way

Last week, a year to the day after the Francis Report on Mid Staffordshire was published, we hosted a seminar to continue our discussions on professionalism and to launch the next stage of our research (1). The seminar was led by Professor Zubin Austin from the University of Toronto, who has a particular expertise around competence and how we understand it in a health and care context (2). We were particularly pleased to welcome so many representatives from professional bodies, employers, educators and other regulators to this forum.

Professor Zubin Austin’s work in Ontario illustrates a number of important themes highly relevant to the collective desire to see improvement in health and social care in the aftermath of Mid Staffordshire.

First, that patients and service users are likely to have different expectations of professional competence from professionals. Service users and patients want professionals to be ‘accessible’, and ‘affable’. Technical know-how is important, but not more important than clear communication and authentic respect.

Second, the evidence suggests that professionals who are competent have several characteristics in common: they are professionally networked, and express satisfation with their career choice and with their personal lives. The key factor in what Zubin calls ‘competency drift’ is isolation. Zubin suggested that disengagement in one’s workplace is often linked to disatisfaction more widely, and that the ‘firewall’ that existed for previous generations between the personal and the professional world no longer exists. The core problem with competency has very little to do with technical skills alone and everything to do with the individual.

During the discussions, there was agreement that competency is multifactorial and is influenced by the environment as well as the individual. There was an appetite for exploring this new discourse on disengagement further, and encouraging people in health and social care to talk about how and why it occurs. Some were concerned about how this could be measured, whilst others proposed that it was the conversations themselves that were key to change. The evidence from Ontario is encouraging. Where interventions along these lines have been introduced, complaints to regulators have reduced.

There was an acknowledgement that all the agencies have a role to play in this discourse. If we can recognise and address personal and professional isolation before it becomes the trigger for poor practice, we may have an influence on the number and nature of complaints that are made.  

Professor Zubin Austin called it a journey of a thousand small steps. For service users, patients and professionals, it is surely a journey  worth making.

Anna van der Gaag

Anna, Zubin and colleagues feed back on the event

Dr Anna van der Gaag in conversation with Professor Zubin Austin


(1) HCPC is commissioning research to look at the factors which can lead to poor practise, why things go wrong when they do using a qualitative study of fitness to practise cases. This work will be published in January 2015.

(2) Austin Z. (2013) How competent are we at assessing competency?
Keynote, CLEAR Congress on Professional and Occupational Regulation, Edinburgh, June 27-28,  2013 www.clearhq.org.