This information aims to support registrants in understanding how to apply the following Standards of conduct, performance and ethics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
7.1 You must report any concerns about the safety or well-being of service users promptly and appropriately.
7.2 You must support and encourage others to report concerns and not prevent anyone from raising concerns.
7.3 You must take appropriate action if you have concerns about the safety or well-being of children or vulnerable adults.
7.4 You must make sure that the safety and well-being of service users always comes before any professional or other loyalties.
Ensuring safety in a challenging environment
COVID-19 has seen the way you work disrupted and has created a challenging environment for service users, your colleagues and yourself. While certain adjustments are to be expected in these unprecedented times, you should continue to follow the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. This means reporting concerns, including concerns for a registrant’s own safety and wellbeing, is as important as ever.
We realise these are challenging times and that this will impact the way that care and treatment is delivered to service users. We have released a joint statement with other regulators outlining our approach to regulating in light of COVID-19. Where we receive fitness to practise concerns we will be assessing them in the context of the current circumstances.
When you should raise a concern
We know that COVID-19 is placing tremendous pressure on services and on health and care professionals. You may feel under pressure not to speak up about the concerns you have, or feel to do so would betray or increase the pressure on you and your colleagues.
However, service user safety and well-being must be protected at all times and we expect registrants to use their professional judgement as well as all available guidance to act in the best interests of service users.
If you are concerned about the safety of a service user (especially where they are a child or a vulnerable adult), it is important that you take appropriate action promptly. It is up to you to use your professional judgment to assess a situation and the risks posed to service users, yourself and your colleagues. You should also support others if they want to raise a concern.
Speaking Up about your concerns is a vital part of protecting service users and yourself. During an emergency like COVID-19, Speaking Up can also help services to learn and to better navigate issues being faced by care users and staff and work quickly to reduce risk.
If you are concerned about a colleague
Who you report a concern to depends on the nature of the concern and the policies of your workplace. In many cases the best course of action will be to raise the concern, formally or informally, with your line manager. Taking this step can address the issue quickly or refer you to other methods to raise your concern.
If your concern relates to conduct of another HCPC registrant, it may be appropriate and effective to raise your concerns with their manager. If you are concerned about the fitness to practise of an individual or feel that they pose a risk to the public, you must raise your concern with us.
You may also consider approaching:
- Another senior member of staff;
- a HR representative;
- a person designated by your employer’s whistleblowing policy: or
- a Freedom to Speak up Guardian.
COVID-19 may mean one or more of these contacts are harder to get hold of. If so, you should look for an alternative and escalate your concerns if that is not possible.
If you are concerned about a service
If you are concerned about safety because of the management or practices of a service, you must also raise these concerns promptly. These concerns could include a service not proving appropriate PPE for the work staff have been asked to do or a situation where a service is otherwise not creating a safe work environment during COVID-19.
The HCPC regulates individuals rather than services or employers, and so you should raise these concerns with the relevant responsible body. Responsible bodies include:
- The Care Quality Commission in England
- The Care Inspectorate in Scotland
- Healthcare Improvement Scotland
- Healthcare Inspectorate Wales / Arolygiaeth Gofal Iechyd Cymru
- Care Inspectorate Wales / Arolygiaeth Gofal Cymru
- The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) in Northern Ireland
You may also wish to raise a concern using processes within your organisation. This could be an internal whistleblowing service or speaking to a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.
What to do if your concern is not addressed
If you have taken appropriate steps and you are still worried, you must follow up on your concerns. If you feel that your concerns have not been appropriately addressed you must escalate your concerns, either with someone more senior within the organisation or with an external party such as your trade union.
Remember that if you are concerned about the safety of service users, yourself or your colleagues, it is vital that you report and follow up as promptly as possible in order to reduce the risk of further harm.
Whistleblowing is a way for workers to report concerns in the public interest and to protect themselves from being treated unfairly at work or losing their job. Whistleblowing can be useful if you feel your concerns have not been addressed adequately or if you want to raise a concern anonymously.
You do not need to exhaust internal processes before opting to whistleblow and this is especially the case where you are concerned about the safety or service users during the COVID-19 emergency.
The safety of service users and your own safety is extremely important, and you should ensure that you are following all the relevant guidance. Some additional guidance includes:
- We have a published a blog summarising how to report concerns about safety.
- Your professional body (if you are a member) will be able to provide profession-specific guidance. A full list of professional bodies can be found on the HCPC’s website.
- If you belong to a trade union, this may provide information about your rights when raising a concern.
- In Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland you can raise concerns with the person designated at your employer. See your company’s whistleblowing policy.
- In England, the National Guardians Office provides training to Freedom to Speak Up Guardians within the NHS and maintains a directory for finding your relevant Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. The NGO has also written this blog about the importance of the Freedom to Speak Up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- For more information about whistleblowing call the NHS and Social Care Whistleblowing Helpline on: +44 (0) 8000 724 725 (this is not a reporting hotline).
- Protect is a national charity providing advice and support for individuals who suspect wrongdoing at their workplace. Their helpline can be reached on: +44 (0) 20 3117 2520.