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Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
 

Health and Care Professions Council UK: on collaboration and proactive regulation

24 Apr 2015

HCPC Chair, Dr Anna van der Gaag CBE, visited AHPRA in February as part of an ongoing information-sharing relationship. She had many insights to share on the challenges of multi-profession regulation.

Anna van der Gaag

One of the things that’s really important to the HCPC as a UK regulator is having strong working relationships with regulators around the world.

Because if we’re going to be effective in protecting the public worldwide, we need to have relationships where we can exchange information easily, where we understand one another’s standards, and how they impact on public protection.

And with the technology available now, and the ease with which we can connect with one another, collaboration is happening in a way that it couldn’t before.

I’m really pleased about that because the HCPC and AHPRA have a lot of common ground, so we’re developing a special relationship as two multi-profession regulators, and that will grow through activities like an exchange program for staff between the agencies, which result in an entirely mutual benefit.

These relationships are also valuable because of the public protection mandate: if a practitioner in the UK is sanctioned by us and then ends up trying to work in Australia, there needs to be an exchange of information and follow-up in order to make sure that the public are protected.

The top three challenges the HCPC is facing would be centred on three key words: analysis, accessibility and dialogue.

As regulators we need to do more analysis: we need to understand and interrogate the data we do have, do more research and make more evidence-informed decisions, and that will improve our effectiveness.

And it doesn’t need to happen through external research alone – it can happen internally, through people being reflective about the data they are collecting and what it’s telling them and how improvements need to be made, based on that analysis.

On accessibility, I think we have a huge challenge in making ourselves more accessible to the public, and that’s about language and communication, and reviewing our literature and how we explain things. Making ourselves more accessible to the public so consumers understand our role is really important.

And I suppose that links to the third challenge – dialogue. As a regulator we need to be open to the concerns of different stakeholders; we need to be listening and engaging in conversations about those concerns and where we can, we need to respond.

So dialogue to me is really important, because as a statutory authority it would be very easy to remove ourselves and not interact and engage with the concerns of the public and the professions, and indeed of educators and professional associations and the media as well. We need to have dialogue.

We’ve begun using social media a lot more deliberately because for some groups that’s their way of communicating. I think we need to become much more comfortable using a multitude of different forms of communication, and recognise we need to adapt ourselves to suit the audience rather than expecting the audience to adapt to us.

I see social media as a very powerful tool for regulators to use well into the future.

The HCPC made a strategic commitment to being a proactive regulator some years ago, and projects like our mediation pilot are very much tied in with that notion that you don’t just react to what comes your way; you’re actually quite thoughtful and active in trying to prevent problems from happening.

The idea came from members of the public, who said they saw a role for mediation in regulation. These were individuals who were interviewed as part of the commissioned research project into mediation in regulatory environments.

We also commissioned a literature review by Charlie Irvine (605 KB,PDF), one of the UK’s top mediators, and the review suggested to us there was a place for alternative dispute mechanisms to be used and these were highly effective in bringing about closure.

The HCPC recently launched another piece of proactive work titled ‘Preventing small problems becoming big problems’.

It’s looking at disengagement, specifically at why practitioners become disengaged and what the triggers are, and how it leads to risky behaviours and competency drift – which eventually lead to complaints. Our purpose is to ask the question: how can we collectively prevent competency drift before it ends up becoming a complaint?

And I guess it ties in with the cases which end up being a ‘no case to answer’. There still might be a problem there, and what we want to do is try and generate debate and discussion about the early warning signs of these sorts of behaviours, again as a way of being proactive and preventing complaints coming to us in the first place.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 24/04/2015