Article

The Professional Standards Authority

The Professional Standards Authority: what it does and how it can help employers in the NHS to improve regulation and safety standards.

22 July 2022

This article explores the Professional Standards Authority, what role it plays and how it can help employers in the NHS to improve regulation and safety standards. It also shares information on the Accredited Registers programme, which aims to give greater confidence in the safety and competence of unregulated roles.

What is The Professional Standards Authority (PSA)?

The PSA is an independent organisation, accountable to the UK Parliament.

Its remit is to protect the public through work with organisations that register and regulate people working in health and social care.

What does it do?

The PSA helps to protect the public by improving the regulation and registration of people who work in health and care. There are three main areas to the work of the PSA:

  • reviewing the work of the UK’s ten professional regulators (such as the GMC and the NMC) to improve the way that healthcare practitioners are regulated
  • accrediting organisations that register healthcare practitioners in unregulated roles through the Accredited Registers programme
  • give policy advice to government and others, and encourage research to improve regulation.

What is the Accredited Registers programme?

There are many health and social care roles which can be carried out without mandatory registration with a statutory body. These include counsellors and psychotherapists, healthcare scientists, sports therapists, and public health practitioners.  

Organisations which register healthcare practitioners working in unregulated roles can apply to the PSA for accreditation. The PSA will assess them and if they meet the standards, it will award the organisation and their registrants a quality mark.

PSA AR

The PSA quality mark shows that the Accredited Register and its registrants are committed to protecting the public and are working at a level of good practice. Each Register holds details of individuals who meet the required standards set for their profession, including standards of education and training, professional skills, competence, and behaviour.

How can I use the Accredited Registers programme?

You can see the full list of Accredited Registers and the occupations it covers on the PSA website.

You can also use the PSA’s Check a Practitioner tool to see if someone is registered.

When you include registration with a relevant Accredited Register within job descriptions, it increases the likelihood of attracting candidates who have met appropriate training standards and have committed to high standards of ethical and professional behaviours.  

Why does the PSA recommend using practitioners on Accredited Registers in the NHS?

  • Greater confidence in the safety and competence of the wider workforce because of a commitment to professional standards, safeguarding and ethical behaviours.
  • Good practice is followed in delegation and referral. Doctors can refer to any practitioner on an accredited register, as set out in GMC guidance.
  • It demonstrates good practice to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
  • There are robust processes for registration and complaints handling.
  • Since the removal of anyone from an Accredited Register is shared with others in the programme, there is greater accountability for practitioners.
  • Clear, up-to-date information about practitioners is available so that employers can make the right choice.

What is the PSA working on at the moment?

Alignment with NHS workforce needs

One of the PSA’s priorities is to ensure there is alignment with the needs and aims of the NHS workforce during a high-pressured and challenging time.

When new roles are introduced to augment the existing workforce, there can be concerns about regulation and how to mitigate risks of harm to the public and service users.

The Accredited Registers programme can provide a flexible solution and pragmatic alternative to statutory regulation or no regulation. New registers can be introduced at pace helping to streamline recruitment processes for employers in the NHS. For example, the registration of psychological practitioner roles - developed as part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme - with either the British Psychological Society or the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies. Both organisations are in the final stages of their accreditation assessments with updates expected soon.

The PSA has also received an application from the Health Practice Associates Council (HPAC), which registers pre-hospital clinicians below the grade of paramedic. The CQC recently wrote to providers, highlighting a best practice approach to recruiting from the HPAC register for relevant roles when transporting patients receiving secure and mental health services.

The CQC commented: "We have previously highlighted concerns about unsafe recruitment in the ambulance sector. We therefore support HPAC in applying to the Professional Standards Authority to support the safe recruitment of non-paramedic ambulance clinicians."

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

There are plans to embed a dedicated standard on EDI for the Accredited Registers. The PSA will establish this standard by exploring how the different registers are collecting data around addressing inequalities. It will also help to demonstrate the range and impact of health issues within the population. The PSA will be consulting on this later in the year and there are ongoing discussions with the EDI team at NHS England to take this forward.

DBS checks

The PSA launched a pilot earlier in the year, in collaboration with the Association of Child Psychotherapists, to test the roll-out of higher-level Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. The aim was to see whether Accredited Registers could access this level of checks despite not being an employer. This has shown positive results, and consultation will be taking place in October 2022 on whether to roll the checks out more widely.

Further information

NHS Employers will continue to provide updates on any key developments in these areas.

For more information about the PSA please visit its website or contact Karen Smith, communications manager, PSA: karen.smith@professionalstandards.org.uk.