In October, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) launched a consultation seeking the views of their stakeholders on their draft revised guidance on conduct and ethics for students.

The HCPC regulates 16 professions including paramedics, practitioner psychologists and social workers in England.

Guidance on conduct and ethics for students was first published by the HCPC in 2010. The new guidance is expected to be published at the start of the academic year 2016 – 2017. Comments regarding the draft guidance are invited by 29 January 2016.

The guidance is based on the HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics which were recently the subject of review. It provides information on the HCPC’s expectations and how the above standards apply to students on approved programmes. These standards apply to those who are registered with the HCPC and those applying to be registered; and assist the HCPC in making a decision as to whether a person should be registered. In very serious circumstances the applicant’s conduct, which is measured against those standards, may affect their ability to be registered.

The draft revised guidance (‘guidance’) incorporates a number of changes necessitated through changes in the revised standards of conduct, performance and ethics (which are due to be published in early 2016) and in the law elsewhere.

Disclosure of criminal antecedents

The guidance reflects the legislative change in 2013 regarding the rights of individuals not to disclose certain protected cautions and protected convictions as part of the registration process. The 2010 guidance required students to tell the HCPC about all of their convictions and cautions, including those that are spent. The new guidance reflects the 2013 legislative change, ensuring that authorised disclosures about antecedents are sought. 

Duty of candour

The guidance also incorporates a key recommendation arising out of the 2013 Francis report; a recommendation that professionals comply with a ‘duty of candour’. Whilst only an organisational duty of candour was given the force of law, in common with many of the health and social care regulators, the HCPC has brought this recommendation to life by including a requirement for students to be open and honest with both service users and carers when things go wrong.

And the remainder…

The HCPC’s main focus remains the safety and wellbeing of service users. The HCPC has strengthened its requirements for students reporting any concerns about the safety and well-being of service users or carers and highlights the need for students to place the well-being of service users before any personal concerns.

Further changes include specific reference to the expectation that students will not discriminate against anyone. In the 2010 guidance this requirement is limited to an expectation that the students will treat everyone equally.

The HCPC has expanded its communication expectations. It has included reference to the need for students to communicate appropriately and effectively when using all forms of communication including social media and networking sites. With the rise of the use of social media it seems appropriate that this be specifically referenced in the revised guidance. 

The core standards outlined by the HCPC in the 2010 guidance for students remain unchanged in the draft revised guidance. As expected, the guidance has been modernised to incorporate recent developments in the area of health and care regulation and to ensure that students continue to meet the exacting standards of the HCPC.