How we consider programmes via a virtual approval visit
Our new quality assurance model
This page provides information about our current approval process. We are currently piloting a new quality assurance approach, which is planned for implementation from September 2021. Any approval assessments from that date will follow the new process.
We undertake virtual approval visits for two reasons
1 If a programme is entirely new and needs considering against our standards for the first time.
2 If we decide, through our monitoring processes, that we need to assess a programme to consider how it continues to meet our standards.
We do not conduct virtual visits on a cyclical basis. If your programme is approved and you are making changes as part of a cyclical review, you should engage with our major change process in the first instance.
Click here if you a proposing an entirely new programme.
The purpose of virtual approval visits
Approval visits allow us to make judgements about whether programmes meet our standards by:
- considering a documentary submission;
- discussing how the programme will work with relevant stakeholders; and
- making judgements about the facilities and resources available to learners.
What you can expect from a visit
|Visit lead in||Normally six months, unless we tell you otherwise|
|Documentary submission||Eight weeks before the visit|
|HCPC private meeting||Normally two weeks in advance of the visit. Areas of enquiry to be circulated before the visit.|
|Visit||1-3 days depending on the programme / range of programmes being considered|
|Report to provider||28 days following the visit|
|Conditions deadline||Normally around six weeks after the visit|
|Conclusion of process||Aim to conclude within three months of the visit, in the 2018-19 academic year on average the process concluded in 4.5 months.|
What we require from you
We require a documentary submission eight weeks before the visit. This allows us to make evidence based decisions about whether programmes meet our standards, and to form the basis for questions at the approval visit.
Through the approval process, we will inform you of our documentary requirements specific to your assessment. Normally, we require the following documentation:
- Information about the programme, including relevant policies and procedures, and contractual agreements
- Descriptions of how the programme delivers and assesses learning
- Proficiency standards mapping
- Information provided to applicants and learners
- Information for those involved with practice-based learning
- Information that shows how staff resources are sufficient for the delivery of the programme
- Internal quality monitoring documentation (If the programme (or a previous version) is currently running)
We ask to meet with various groups during virtual approval visits, to triangulate the information that we have been given in your documentary submission. Through the approval process, we will work with you to put together an agenda specific to your assessment, and to work for all groups that may be in attendance at the meetings. Normally, we ask to meet the following groups:
- Learners, potential learners, or learners from a similar programme
- Senior staff, including those from the education provider and any relevant partners
- Practice educators that work or will work directly with learners
- Service users and carers that contribute to the programme, if applicable
- The programme team
As visits are virtual, information about the resources available for learners, can be provided in a number of different ways. For example, this could be through a presentation and questioning during relevant stakeholder meetings.
FAQs for the approval process
When we carry out a virtual approval visit, we are represented by a panel of visitors. At least one of the visitors who reviews your programme will be a professional appropriate to the profession or the entitlement that the programme concerns.
We appoint an ‘education executive’ to approval visits. This individual is your point of contact throughout the visit process, and will work with our visitors.
We are happy to undertake events alongside your internal quality assurance processes, and with professional bodies. Although we engage in collaborative scrutiny of programmes, we come to our decisions independently. Please see our page on how we work with professional bodies for more information.
We sometimes consider programmes from multiple professions at approval visits, if education providers would like us to. These events are often complex due to the number of programmes being considered, the number of people contributing to discussions, and the number of external bodies. Therefore, you should contact us as soon as possible to discuss what might work best for our assessment of your programmes.
The Education and Training Committee is legally responsible for approving and monitoring programmes which lead to eligibility to apply to our Register. The Committee considers recommendations from our visitors and observations from education providers before making their decisions. The Committee meets in public and copies of agendas and minutes (including visitors’ reports) are published on our website.
Individuals cannot use a protected title unless they are on our Register. It is important that you ensure that those who come into contact with your learners, including members of the public, understand that they are not fully qualified or registered. Learners can use a title with an appropriate prefix which makes their status clear, such as ‘trainee’ or ‘student’.
Our standards are at the heart of our approval and monitoring processes. Our legislation allows us to set standards for safe and effective practice, for education and training, and to approve programmes against those standards. Programme approval is based on whether a programme can show that it meets our standards.
Our standards have related but different roles. The standards of proficiency and standards of conduct, performance and ethics apply to individuals. The standards of education and training apply to programmes and education providers.
The standards of proficiency apply to registrants, and must be met by learners in order for them to be eligible to apply to the Register. Registrants also have to keep to the standards of conduct, performance and ethics, which learners must also be able to meet as part of approved programmes. There is a degree of overlap between the standards of proficiency and the standards of conduct, performance and ethics. For example, both include confidentiality.
The standards of education and training are designed to guarantee learners achieve the standards of proficiency, and the standards of conduct, performance and ethics.
All of our standards are written in a flexible way, which means they are relevant to all registrants, whatever their profession or sector. It means there is normally more than one way in which our standards can be met.
The language used in the standards of proficiency plays an important role in making sure that prospective registrants as well as registrants can meet them. We deliberately use verbs such as ‘be able to’ rather than ‘must’. We express the standards of proficiency in terms of expectations so that someone who is not yet on the Register can meet them.
We have written the standards of conduct, performance and ethics in a way which means that only registrants can meet them. We deliberately use the verb ‘must’ rather than ‘be able to’ to recognise that individuals must be practising in their profession to meet these standards.
The standards of education and training are outcome-based, rather than input-based. This means that we define what the standards must achieve, rather than how they must be met. The language used in the standards of education and training allows education providers to meet them in a number of ways, relevant to the particular profession or model of education and training. Our standards are general principles on which we will make judgements about the education and training provided. We deliberately use adjectives and adverbs such as ‘appropriate’ and ‘effectively’ to make sure that those making the judgements assess the systems, policies and scenarios proposed by education providers.
By focusing on the outcome of safe and effective practice, we do not prevent registrants, employers and education providers from developing new ways of working if it is safe and appropriate.
Our standards are mainly designed to provide eligibility to join and stay on the Register, and are focused on fitness for practise, rather than fitness for employment in a particular role, sector or service. We have not designed our standards to offer detailed guidance on best practice as we write the standards at a threshold level. We have designed them to be flexible so that they can be met in a variety of ways. The standards of proficiency are not a career development framework.
Therefore, we do not produce curriculum guidance or frameworks. We believe that this is best owned by the profession itself. Most curriculum guidance or frameworks go beyond the threshold standards and include new areas of practice, as well as examples and expectations of best practice. This means that we do not have specific requirements about the design or delivery of the programme, which might be found in curriculum guidance or frameworks.
As learners are not registered with us, we do not hold them to any standards. However, we have guidance on conduct and ethics for students, which is based on the standards of conduct, performance and ethics and is designed to introduce and familiarise learners with our standards. The guidance sets useful principles for prospective registrants around the expectations of professionals on our Register.
It means they are able to practise safely and effectively. An individual who completes an approved programme is eligible to apply for registration with us. There is no extra period of education and training needed before registration. And, there is no extra requirement, as part of the application process, to test a person’s ability to practise safely and effectively.
There is a difference between being registered as a health and care professional and being employed as one. Registration should not be seen as a guarantee of employment. We ensure that registrants are fit to practise. This does not mean we guarantee the person will have the opportunity to practise. It is also not the same as fitness to work, which is decided by employers.
A registrant’s scope of practice is the area or areas of their profession in which they have the knowledge, skills and experience to practise safely and effectively. We recognise that registrants’ practice changes over time and that the practice of experienced registrants frequently becomes more focused and specialised than that of newly qualified registrants. As a condition of their registration, registrants must stay within their scope of practice.
Regulators are one of many bodies with an interest in quality assurance. Education providers are reviewed by other regulators, funders, commissioners and professional bodies as well as their own processes. Our role in quality assuring education and training programmes is focused on protecting the public, while other parties’ roles are more focused on developing or promoting the profession or academic credentials of the education provider. Our approach is laid down in legislation and we act in the public interest.
There is often considerable crossover with the areas that we and other bodies would like to explore. Therefore we work as collaboratively as possible with other groups.
The decision to withdraw approval from a programme rests with the Education and Training Committee. If they are significant enough, concerns about an approved programme would normally trigger a visit. If an education provider could not show that their programme continued to meet our standards through this process, then the Committee would consider withdrawing approval.