Statutory registration for health and social care professionals

Updated: 30th May 2012

Contents

What is statutory registration?
Which professions are covered?
What do the new fitness to practice procedures mean for professionals?
What protection and support is IMPACT providing?
What is IMPACT doing about fees?
Are there other issues of concern?
Why does IMPACT support statutory registration?
Watch video highlights of IMPACT’s conference: Get Ready for Regulation
Download an IMPACT application form
Chiropodists/podiatrists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Clinical biochemists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Dietitians: You’re better off in IMPACT
Occupational therapists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Orthoptists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Social workers: You’re better off  in IMPACT
Physiotherapists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Psychologists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Social care workers: You’re better off in IMPACT
Speech and language therapists: You’re better off in IMPACT

What is statutory registration?

Under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, statutory registration is to be introduced for 12 health and social care professionals from 2013. Statutory registration means:

  • Individual professionals will have to apply to be accepted onto a professional register before they are permitted to practice, or continue to practice, in the State. They will have to pay a fee for this, which is currently set at €295 a year for qualified professionals and €100 a year for students
  • New fitness to practice procedures will be introduced, which could see practitioners struck off the register for professional misconduct, poor performance, criminal conviction, or impairment due to illness including alcohol or drugs dependency
  • A requirement for professionals to engage in continuous professional development.

IMPACT strongly supports the introduction of statutory registration, which can help deliver best practice, high quality health services, outstanding professional standards, and protection for service users.
But the union says the registration fee has been set too high,
especially when compared to fees of €88 for nurses and €90 for teachers.
There’s more on the fees issue later in this briefing.

Which professions are covered?

The professions covered by the new arrangements include:

  • Chiropodists/podiatrists
  • Clinical biochemists
  • Dietitians
  • Occupational therapists
  • Orthoptists
  • Social workers
  • Physiotherapists
  • Psychologists
  • Social care workers
  • Speech and language therapists.

The only register currently open is that for social workers. After 31st May 2013, social workers who are not registered will not be allowed to practice in the Republic of Ireland. The precise timetable for registration for other professionals is yet to be announced. IMPACT is currently advising qualified social workers to postpone their registration until the dispute over fees is resolved.

What do the new fitness to practice procedures mean for professionals?

Statutory registration introduces new procedures for dealing with complaints from managers, colleagues, patients, clients or their families. Not all complaints will result in fitness to practice hearings. However a serious complaint, if upheld, could ultimately see practitioners struck off the register for professional misconduct, poor performance, criminal conviction, or impairment due to illness including alcohol or drugs dependency.

Speaking at IMPACT’S recent (29th May 2012) statutory registration conference, barrister Rosemary Mallon gave a clear outline of how complaints are likely to be dealt with. You can read it HERE.

At the same conference Claire Treacy, the INMO’s senior official with responsibility for fitness to practice situations, gave an excellent account of various cases that nurses have encountered under a long-standing and similar registration system. You can read it HERE.

Clare Treacy of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) outlines her experience of dealing with complaints against nurses, who are already subject to statutory registration.

Speaking at our conference, barrister Rosemary Mallon said the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 defined poor performance as “any failure of the registrant to meet the standards of competence that may reasonably be expected of registrants practicing that profession.” She outlined five possible sanctions if complaints against professionals were upheld:

  • An admonishment or a censure
  • An attachment of conditions to his or her registration, including restrictions on the practice of the designated profession
  • The suspension of his/her registration for a specified period of time
  • The cancellation of his/her registration
  • A prohibition from applying for a specified period for restoration to the register.

Ms Mallon said that even minor breaches of professional codes of conduct could be considered misconduct and she advised health professionals to seek advice from their trade union if complaints were made against them or if they think a complaint might be made.

“Once a professional becomes aware that a complaint has been made against them I would strongly advise them to immediately seek advice. The importance and value of immediately contacting your union cannot be overestimated. Your union will, on a very basic human level, provide you with support. On a practical level your union will also be able to guide you through the process and offer advice on the course of action you should take. Complex legal issues and/or procedural issues may well arise when a complaint is made,” she said.

What protection and support is IMPACT providing?

IMPACT acknowledges the role of fitness for practice procedures, although it continues to campaign to ensure that these are fair and fairly implemented.  The union believes that effective professional regulation requires the ability to exclude those whose actions or judgements render them unfit to practice, and that the public will not be properly protected if those deemed unfit to practice continue to do so. But IMPACT says all practitioners are entitled to fair procedures and due process and it has put a new package in place to ensure its members are guaranteed all necessary legal advice and representation for free in fitness to practice situations.

The union has vast experience of representing health and social care professionals in meetings with management and in formal tribunals and hearings.

At local level, our team of expert negotiators will be there to intercede with management to provide moral and practical support, and to assist with the preparation of cases, the coordination of witnesses, and other such issues. IMPACT will channel all cases through a legally trained and qualified official to ensure that members do not make errors early in the process, which might weaken their position in a later hearing.

Where necessary, the union will arrange, and pay for, legal representation at fitness to practice hearings. And we will only appoint expert lawyers that we have full confidence in, and who have experience in this area of law.

If an important professional principle arises in a particular case, the union will consider the possibility of an appeal to the High Court, which is the highest level that a case can go to under the legislation. We have the resources to mount such an action if necessary and we have occasionally done so in the sphere of employment law.

To ensure that IMPACT members can enjoy this extra security, and benefit from these additional measures, the union is putting in place an insurance arrangement to cover its legal costs.

These benefits will not cost IMPACT members any extra money – but they are not available to you unless you are a member of IMPACT. You can download an IMPACT application form HERE.

This is an additional benefit on top of the valuable package of benefits that already comes with membership of IMPACT:

  • Protection of your pay and working conditions
  • Advice and representation when problems arise at work – including problems unrelated to professional registration
  • Excellent communications on the workplace issues that matter to you
  • The right to participate in decisions that affect you
  • Membership of an effective lobbying and campaigning organisation
  • And an attractive range of individual benefits and financial services, including €4,000 critical illness or death in service benefit plus free legal and counselling helplines.

What is IMPACT doing about fees?

Union discussions with the Department of Health and Children have already resulted in a significant reduction in the fee, which was originally set at €385 a year. Talks are continuing but the union says the department has given no sign that it intends to reduce the fee again.

Speaking at IMPACT’s recent (29th May 2012) conference on the issue, union official Christina Carney said: “It is possible to find a solution that’s acceptable to all. But we will not settle for the fees at their current, unfair, level, and we will do whatever’s necessary to achieve a just outcome. Time to settle this issue is running out and I advise the Minister not to underestimate the resolve of these professionals. We remain in discussions, but if this is not resolved satisfactorily we could find ourselves in dispute.”

IMPACT’s Christina Carney and barrister Rosemary Mallon at the IMPACT conference.

Are there other issues of concern?

IMPACT continues to focus on the practical implications of registration for health and social care professionals in its ongoing discussions with the health department, the regulator CORU, and health service employers. We are in continuing discussions on:

  • The application process
  • The Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics, which will establish professional standards against which fitness to practice will be judged
  • The fitness to practice procedures, and
  • Continuous professional development and the requirements this
  • places on staff in a time of lower incomes and health service retrenchment.

You can read a full account by IMPACT official Christina Carney in her paper to the union’s recent (29th May 2012) conference on the issue HERE.

Why does IMPACT support statutory registration?

IMPACT has been campaigning for the regulation – or statutory registration – of the health and social care professions for many years. Together with us, our members in these professions have lobbied successive governments to introduce proper regulation, often in conjunction with the professional associations.

We’ve done this because we support the principles of best practice, high quality public service, and the maintenance of outstanding professional standards, sustained by ongoing professional development and continuing education.

IMPACT says statutory registration is a positive development for staff too. As far back as the 1990s, the union placed registration at the centre of its argument for the professions to be recognised as independent and autonomous, and to be properly valued in their own right. Before that campaign there was effectively no career structure for the health and social care professions and this was reflected in extremely poor rewards and career prospects.

In 2000, the Expert Group on Various Health Professions was set up on foot of IMPACT’s campaign, which had already won vastly improved pay and professional grading structures for the first time. Its report supported statutory registration and the 2005 Health and Social Care Professions Bill gave it legal enforcement.

Although we support statutory registration, IMPACT continues to focus on the practical implications for health and social care professionals. These include the application process, the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics, the fitness to practice procedures, and continuous professional development and the requirements this places on staff in a time of lower incomes and health service retrenchment.

More information

Watch video highlights of IMPACT’s conference: Get Ready for Regulation

Download an IMPACT application form HERE.

Chiropodists/podiatrists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Clinical biochemists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Dietitians: You’re better off in IMPACT
Occupational therapists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Orthoptists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Social workers: You’re better off  in IMPACT
Physiotherapists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Psychologists: You’re better off in IMPACT
Social care workers: You’re better off in IMPACT
Speech and language therapists: You’re better off in IMPACT