We are in unprecedented times. If we ever momentarily forget, the media is constantly reminding us about the impact of the pandemic, and how the health and social care sector is responding and reacting. Many of these stories include our own registrants. Hearing about how you have been responding and adapting to ensure the interests of service users continue to be the central focus of your practise has been inspiring and humbling.
Challenging times, offering support and doing things differently
As your professional regulator, we have had to quickly adapt how we work to provide you with the necessary support and flexibility at this time. Here are a few things that we have been doing:
- Created a COVID-19 hub which contains detailed guidance and advice
- Provided guidance on how to apply our standards at this time, particularly on issues where you are concerned, for example PPE
- Recognised the context in which you are operating should a concern be raised about your fitness to practise
- Cancelled the CPD audits for physiotherapists, arts therapists, dietitians, chiropodists / podiatrists and hearing aid dispensers
- Focused on your health and wellbeing, by creating a Your health and wellbeing section in COVID-19 hub and running a wellbeing campaign #HCPCWellbeingTips on our social media feeds
- Continued with our approval visits for new education programmes, to date 27 virtual visits have been set up between now and June
- Prioritised high risk ftp cases, by postponing substantive final hearings and holding virtual Investigating Committee Panels as necessary
- Accepted UK and readmission applications by email, as well as those renewing who are unable to access the online portal and continued to manage postal applications
- Had weekend shifts, including over the Easter weekend, to ensure we respond to email queries as quickly as possible
We have also worked closely with the UK Government, NHS, education providers and professional bodies to support the workforce response to the pandemic. This has included enabling thousands of health and care professionals to return to practise on a temporary basis, along with final year students who have completed their practise placements. To date, our COVID-19 Temporary Registers have 21,315 former registrants and 3,454 students. We applaud all those who are helping in this way, alongside our existing registrants.
Deferring our registration fee increase
Some people have asked whether we can suspend or reimburse our registration fees during this time. Many regulators, professional bodies and other associations have been asked a similar question.
The registration fee is an important part of being a registered health or social care professional. Throughout this challenging time, we are still required by Government to fulfil our legal obligations; setting standards, maintaining the Register and taking action to protect the public. We have responded in the ways that I have outlined to support the nation’s fight against COVID-19.
As an independent regulator protecting the public by supporting our professionals, we do not receive any funding from the Department of Health and Social Care or the Government. As the registration fee is our only source of income we are unfortunately financially not able to waive our fees.
We recognise that financial pressures may be a real worry for some, particularly those professionals whose working practises have been affected by social distancing restrictions. The Government is offering financial support to businesses, and I understand some colleagues working in private or independent practice have offered their services to the NHS.
Our Council has also recognised the extraordinary pressures that many of you are facing at the moment, and agreed it would not be right to implement the proposed fee increase we had planned for the autumn. Similarly, we do not expect our existing registrants to bear the burden of the costs associated with the temporary registers and will request a grant from Government to cover this if necessary.
Paying tribute to your professionalism and commitment
I started this blog acknowledging your hard work and commitment in these unprecedented times, and want to finish in this way.
I am also conscious that some of our registered professionals have lost their lives during this pandemic. Like you, these individuals were hard working committed professionals who put their service users at the heart of what they did. Our condolences and sympathies are with their families, friends and colleagues.
We continue to show our appreciation for you all, supporting the #ClapForOurCarers and publishing your COVID-19 experiences on our website. Please continue to share your stories with us and follow us on our social media channels.
My thanks to you all, stay safe and well.