• Advanced Practice: Research Report

      Hardy, Maryann L.; Snaith, Beverly; Edwards, Lisa; Baxter, John; Millington, Paul; Harris, Martine A. (Health & Care Professions Council, 2021-01)
      The Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) regulates fifteen different professions; some of these are large groups like Physiotherapists and some are much smaller such as Speech and Language Therapists (SLT). Most of the people registered by the HCPC work within their own areas of clinical expertise and defined professional scope of practice. However, an increasing number of registrants are undertaking new or additional roles beyond the traditional scope of practice for the defined profession. These roles are often shared with other medical or health professionals and persons undertaking these roles are often, but not consistently, referred to as Advanced Practitioners. Advanced Practitioners are employed within the NHS across all four countries of the UK and are also employed by private healthcare providers. The roles they undertake vary from the highly specialised (e.g. an advanced podiatrist might specialise in biomechanics) to more general roles with greater professional autonomy and decision-making (e.g. a paramedic working in a GP Practice assessing patients with undifferentiated acute problems). As a result, there is currently no consistency in role title, scope of advanced practice, necessary underpinning education or professional accreditation across the HCPC registered professions. This study was undertaken to explore these issues and seek opinion on the need for additional regulatory measures for persons working at an advanced practice level. NB: For the purposes of this study, advanced practice was considered to encompass all roles, regardless of role title, where the level of practice undertaken was considered to be advanced. Method Three approaches to data collection were undertaken to ensure the differing opinions across all HCPC registered professions, different stakeholders and the four nations of the UK were collected. Data were collected through: 1. A UK wide survey of HCPC registered healthcare professionals; 2. A UK wide survey of organisations delivering AHP & scientific advanced practice education; 3. A series of focus groups and interviews across a range of stakeholder groups. Findings The concept of advanced level practice was not consistently understood or interpreted across the different stakeholder groups. Those participants identifying as working at an advanced practice level undertook a range of activities both within and out with the traditional scope of practice of the registered profession adding a further layer of complexity. Educational support and availability for advanced level practice varied across professional groups and inequity of accessibility and appropriateness of content were raised as concerns. There is no consensus across participant groups on the need for regulation of advanced level practice. Perceived advantages to additional regulation were the consistent and equal educational and employer governance expectations, particularly where multiple professional groups are undertaking the same role, all be it with a differing professional educational foundation and lens. However, while some voices across the participant groups felt regulation was essential to assure practice standards and reduce risk of role title misuse, there was equally a lack of appetite for regulation that inhibited agility to respond to, and reflect, the rapidly changing healthcare environment and evolving scope of advanced level practice. Importantly, no evidence was presented from any participant group that advanced level practice within HCPC regulated professions presents a risk to the public. Conclusion The study data presented in this report reflect the complexity of the concept of advanced practice within the HCPC regulated professions. Much of this is a consequence of the differing speeds of professional role development across healthcare organisations and professional groups, often related to service capacity gaps and locally developed education to support local initiatives. Despite this, there is no clear evidence, based on the findings of this research, that additional regulation of advanced level practice is needed, or desired, to protect the public. However, as the HCPC is one of the few organisations with a UK wide remit, it may have a central role in achieving unification across the 4 nations in relation to the future role expectations, educational standards, and governance of advanced level practice.