One word I would use to sum up the last year for the HCPC is ‘change’, which has become a constant.
Despite the disruption and uncertainty, we have demonstrated incredible resilience, commitment and adaptability, and have driven forward with determination and purpose, directed by our new Corporate Strategy. The words used by our registrants to describe the last year in our Year in Highlights report, ‘surreal’ ‘difficult’ ‘strange’, also ring true. However, many of them also express a great sense of camaraderie, kindness and pride in what we have achieved together over the last year.
COVID-19 of course dominated much of 2020-2021, and the HCPC’s registrants played their significant part in rising to the challenges it posed. More than 27,000 professionals were added to our Temporary Registers of students and returners, to boost the healthcare workforce when it began to be overwhelmed by the pandemic. And as the critical vaccine programme began, many of our registrants joined the vaccine delivery force to assist with the rollout.
As an organisation, we transitioned many of our day-to-day operations online, including Fitness to Practise (FtP) hearings, registration renewals and approval and monitoring for new education programmes. This meant our daily functions as a regulator could continue with the safety of our staff ensured and without compromising public protection which lies at the heart of all we do.
Looking beyond the response to COVID-19, there were many other areas of progress. We outlined and implemented 16 projects under our FtP Improvement Programme, and our Council approved significant funding to accelerate the programme. We started the pilot of our new education Quality Assurance model, co-produced with our education providers, which will allow us to be much more flexible, data-led and risk-based in the assessment of education providers.
Our first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy was presented to Council for approval in March 2021. As part of our ongoing EDI Action Plan (2021-2023) we set up an EDI Forum with 70+ members and also carried out a ‘MyEDI’ survey of our registrants in January this year. Thanks to a tailored and proactive communications approach, we received 52,046 responses - a more than three-fold increase in response rate compared to last year.
Our Policy team delivered a review of the regulation of Advanced Practice, a Registrant Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Action Plan, and a Professionalism and Prevention Framework, which endorses increased ‘upstream’ activity, focused on promoting professionalism and preventing and reducing harm. Our Professional Liaison team also ran a series of webinars and created support materials for employers and registrants on professionalism, supervision & leadership and reflective practice. In addition, we began a review of and updates to all 15 of our standards of proficiency.
At the time of writing this, it is clear that difficult days lie ahead as a further COVID wave takes hold. It is also clear to me that our registrants will continue to play a vital role, working with colleagues in the health and care workforce, supporting patients and the public every single day. Their dedication and skill are truly remarkable.
The current momentum behind the reform of healthcare regulation presents a golden opportunity to cement the collaboration, innovation and flexibility which the pandemic has caused us to demonstrate. The HCPC, as the only UK multi-profession regulator, with 20 years’ experience, has an important role in shaping this regulatory change, to better protect patients.
We will also continue to work towards the goals of our Corporate Strategy, as we move into its second year, embedding our FtP improvement programme and progressing our work on prevention focused, intelligence-led regulation. As Chair of the HCPC, I am proud of our collective progress over the last year, I warmly thank everyone involved, and look forward to us building on that momentum in the year ahead.
Chair of the HCPC