27 January 2016

Why are our Standards of conduct, performance and ethics important for service users?

Steve McNeice was a service user member of the Professional Liaison Group involved in revising our Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. Here, he reveals what these standards mean for service users and why they’re so important.

In March 2003 I contracted Group ‘A’ Streptococcus, which, after mutating a number of times, ultimately became Meningococcal Septicaemia. This resulted in the amputation of both my legs above the knee, the loss of the muscles in my right forearm, the loss of all my fingertips and the amputation of my little finger on my right hand. I also have significant lung capacity reduction, deafness in one ear and reduced hearing loss in the other.

As a consequence of managing these lifelong and complex conditions, I continue to experience and benefit from the services of a wide variety of allied health professionals (AHPs), including paramedics, prosthetists, orthotists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and radiographers.

Reviewing the Standards

This previous and on-going patient experience as a long-term service user led to my involvement in reviewing and revising the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (SCPE) as part of a Professional Liaison Group (PLG). These are Standards for the 16 professions regulated by the HCPC, setting out in broad and easily understandable terms the behaviours expected of its registered health and care professionals. My role within the PLG entailed making suggestions about how these standards could be made more accessible, practical and useable, particularly for service users.

Health and care professionals must adhere to SCPE as a condition of their continuing HCPC registration. The Standards are important because they outline a minimum quality of service that the public can, or should, expect from their health and care professional. This means that they are equipped with a better understanding upon which to base their expectations for any intervention or service being provided.

Reflecting service user expectations

In terms of my own expectations, I believe that AHPs should work ‘with’ service users. Communication should be appropriate in language and manner, allowing me to make an informed choice (albeit in conjunction with the professional). I would also expect them to work within their own knowledge and skill set, recognising any limitations whilst acting at all times in my best interest.

The revised Standards of conduct, performance and ethics absolutely reflect my expectations. Like most service users with lifelong and often complex conditions, I have changing needs. I therefore feel privileged that I’m able to benefit from the skills, expertise and knowledge afforded to me by my caring AHPs.

Building the relationship between professionals and service users

Importantly, the revised SCPE include a new standard about registrants being open and honest when things go wrong. I would add that this should be a two-way process: if I do something wrong, I would be the first to apologise. This trust and mutual respect is crucial for service users who have to build long-term relationships in order to work constructively with AHPs. Indeed, it can directly impact meeting any goals or on-going needs.

Registrants are also required to report and escalate any concerns they might have about the safety and wellbeing of service users. Clearly, this is essential. News reports often highlight the lessons to be learnt from whatever incident may have occurred, but I believe that prevention is generally better than cure.

Standards of conduct, performance and ethics are, of course, directly relevant to health and care professionals regulated by the HCPC, as well as those aspiring to join the Register. However, they are also of particular interest and importance to service users, carers and the general public. I know and understand, from my own personal experience, the benefit to patients of a skilled and professional workforce. So it is particularly pleasing to have been part of the revision of a set of standards that seeks to support, maintain and encourage that workforce.

More information about the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics is available here.

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