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Benefits vs risks: how the Accredited Registers programme helps to protect the public

Our Accredited Registers programme helps to protect the public by awarding our Quality Mark to organisations holding registers of health and care roles that aren’t regulated by law. They must meet our Standards for Accredited Registers to achieve the Quality Mark.

When we consulted publicly in 2020 on the future of the Accredited Registers programme, people told us that they supported us taking greater account of the effectiveness of therapies. It is now more than a year since we introduced a ‘public interest test’ to our Standards (in Standard One). This ‘test’ allows us to look at the benefits of therapies offered by registrants and decide if they outweigh the risks. It also contributes to our decision about whether to award or renew accreditation.

We have now started to make decisions under Standard One. This includes new Registers applying for accreditation, and those which we already accredit. As well as reviewing benefits and risks as part of our assessments, we’re also finding this information is useful to help raise awareness of the broader aspects of the programme. For example, the deeper knowledge we’ve gained on the work of sports rehabilitators has been used in our response to the Government’s consultation on a new mental health and wellbeing plan for England (see paragraph 3.11). We highlighted the positive relationship between physical activity and health, for all age groups, including the specific benefits of reducing risk factors for fractures in older people by enhancing strength and balance.

It seems there are benefits from the Registers’ perspectives, too. Stephen Aspinall, Chief Executive of the British Association of Sport Rehabilitators and Trainers (BASRaT), reflects on his experience as the first of the current Accredited Registers to complete a Standard One assessment.

‘Since the inception of the Accredited Register programme in 2013, two big challenges for commissioners and members of the public have been to both identify the profession that meets their needs and to decide whether research informs their professional education and practice. Members of the public can’t make informed choices if they do not have an indication of the depth, breadth and evidence base that underpins a profession. In contrast, the more traditional healthcare professions don’t need an introduction and there is an implicit understanding that there is an evidence base underpinning their practice. Until now, this has been absent in some of the newer healthcare occupations. Along with the accurate communication of standards of education and training, Accredited Registers now need to complete the new Standard One assessment, providing a clear outline of the research base that supports practice, which is a key pillar of modern evidence-based practice.

‘This is not only a fantastic step forward for confidence and public protection, it also acts as a reflective and developmental process for each of the Accredited Registers, meaning agile healthcare professions for a changing world. For BASRaT, it also allows us to provide a more in-depth understanding of exactly what the Sport Rehabilitation profession offers and the work of practitioners in the clinical environment, including the different contexts they work in, how they support exercise as part of health and wellbeing and the depth of their knowledge and training – it allows us to demonstrate that BASRaT registrants represent a valuable part of the wider workforce, ready to work alongside the more traditional statutory professions.’

Melanie Venables, Head of Accreditation, reflects on the introduction of Standard One. 

‘In the current workforce crisis, when shortages of professionals mean employers and commissioners must look for alternative ways to expand access to care, choosing practitioners on an Accredited Register can help to keep people safe. Recent applications reflect areas of high need, such as within the wider psychological workforce and non-paramedic ambulance staff. We are also able to offer a standalone Standard One assessment before a full application from a prospective Register; this is a new approach and provides more flexibility for organisations.

‘At another level, collecting information about risks and benefits in a more consistent way may help to create an overall risk profile of roles which are not regulated by law. Our approach to assessing risk in Standard One is based on the same criteria used in more in-depth reviews of a profession (as described in our Right-touch assurance methodology). This information helps to build a clearer picture of the many roles in the wider health and care system, and where risks overlap statutory, and non-statutory regulation. We can use this information to help identify where the public might most benefit from accreditation in the future.’

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Please note the views expressed in these blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily reflect those of the Professional Standards Authority.