This year's performance review for the HCPC concluded that they met all of our Standards of Good Regulation for Guidance and Standards, Education and Training and Registration – however our report highlights our concerns about the HCPC's performance against the Fitness to Practise Standards and we concluded that the HCPC failed to meet six out of 10 of these Standards
Guidance and Standards: regulators take account of stakeholders' views in developing/revising guidance
The HCPC conducted a number of public consultations during 2016/17, including on its revised confidentiality guidance, social media guidance and revised standards of proficiency for social workers. The social media guidance was developed following feedback from health professionals who indicated that they would welcome further guidance on this subject to help them meet the HCPC’s social media requirements.
Registration: the process is fair, efficient and transparent
The HCPC did not meet this Standard in our last performance review but has met it for this year. We are reassured that the HCPC has taken steps to amend its registration appeal process. Information provided to us for our targeted review demonstrates that revisions made by the HCPC have increased transparency and identified methods to improve consistency of decision-making.
Registration: risk of harm and of damage to public confidence is managed in a proportionate and risk-based manner
We carried out a targeted review to check how the HCPC responded to a legislative error that enabled orthoptists (who diagnose and treat visual problems involving eye movement) to sell and supply certain medicines. The HCPC outlined measures taken to manage the risks arising from the error, including: notifying the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority and NHS England, requiring orthoptists to complete HCPC-approved post registration training, ensuring clarity in its communications (and those from the British and Irish Orthoptist Society). We are therefore satisfied that the HCPC took a pragmatic and proportionate approach to minimise any risk to public confidence caused by the error.
Fitness to Practise
Following our review, we have concluded that six of the 10 Fitness to Practise Standards have not been met by the HCPC this year. Our concerns focus on how well the HCPC is protecting the public and relate to:
- a potential barrier to progressing complaints caused by the revised Standard of Acceptance (SOA), the HCPC’s threshold for accepting complaints
- the quality of risk assessments being undertaken, and the approach taken by the HCPC in seeking interim orders
- the sufficiency of some of the HCPC’s investigations
- the HCPC’s process for discontinuance and disposal of cases by consent, as well as its approach to health concerns in fitness to practise cases
- mixed performance in the time taken to progress complaints through the fitness to practise process
- some concerns around the reasoning and consistency of the HCPC’s fitness to practise decision-making.
We recognise the work that the HCPC is undertaking to improve their performance against these Standards, including additional staff training, redrafting/providing new guidance, conducting audits, data checks, and reviews of new processes. We also recognise that the HCPC has made progress and successfully reduced the number of older fitness to practise cases during 2016/17. However, these measures have not had enough time to impact on performance this year, but we look forward to seeing progress made in our next performance review and we will continue to monitor the outcomes of cases where these processes are adopted.