06 June 2016

Focus on Standard 7: Reporting and escalating concerns

Michael Guthrie, HCPC’s Director of Policy and Standards talks about what our standards of conduct, performance and ethics say about the need for registrants to report concerns about the safety of service users.

What does the standard say?

Standard seven says that registrants must report any concerns about the safety or wellbeing of service users promptly and appropriately. They must also follow-up their concerns where necessary. This includes supporting others to report concerns and acknowledging and acting on concerns reported to them.

Why is the standard important?

The reports of inquiries into failings in health and social care services in recent years have emphasised the importance of individuals reporting concerns they have about the safety of service users and the importance that organisations are responsive to these concerns.

The previous version of the Standards already required registrants to protect service users from harm but our specific expectations were scattered throughout the standards. We have created a dedicated standard and revised the language we have used to make our expectations as clear as possible. We have also included a new requirement that in addition to raising concerns themselves, registrants should support others to raise concerns and, where appropriate to do so, should act on concerns raised to them. This is particularly important for registrants who are in management and leadership positions.

We want to contribute to creating a culture that actively encourages registrants to report concerns and take appropriate action where necessary to keep service users safe.

What does this mean for registrants?

We are asking registrants that when they are concerned about the safety or well-being of service users they take prompt and effective action. For registrants who are employed this might include raising the issue in the first instance informally with their immediate line manager or discussing the issue with their trade union, for example. Most employers will have whistleblowing policies that registrants should be aware of and follow where possible.

For very serious concerns and where no or ineffective action has been taken, we would expect registrants to use their professional judgement, by following-up on their concerns (in line with any whistleblowing policy if there is one) and considering escalating them where necessary. This means passing on their concerns to someone who is better able to act on it, for example a more senior colleague or manager. In some circumstances this might also include passing information to us, to another regulator or to the police.

We know that health and care professionals can understandably be reluctant to raise concerns because they are worried about the consequences for others involved or for their own careers. We want the standards to provide positive encouragement for registrants to use their professional judgement in raising and escalating concerns they have for the benefit of service users and the public.

We have published further advice about raising and escalating concerns on our website. This includes a process diagram to follow when thinking about raising concerns, and suggestions of further sources of advice and support.

Further information about the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics is available here.

For more information about Standard 7, or to address any queries you may have, join in our TweetChat on Tuesday 21 June at 6.00pm using the hashtag #my_standards