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Regulation and the Voluntary Register

The NHS (England) White Paper3 outlining the Health and Community Care Bill was followed by a Command Paper entitled “Enabling Excellence: Autonomy and Accountability for Health and Social Care Staff”.4 This indicated that wholesale regulation of the support workforce would not be pursued. It proposed instead that a system of assured voluntary registration be introduced. The Command Paper also suggested that the public and patients who want to gauge whether the support worker meets appropriate standards should be able to access such information, and it placed responsibility for ensuring competence of the workforce with the employer. In Scotland, there are already codes of conduct 5 for both employers and employees in respect of the support workforce.

In order to carry out its responsibilities with regard to public safety and professional practice, the Society and College of Radiographers developed an accreditation scheme and a public voluntary register for assistant practitioners to reassure patients and employers that these registrants had been appropriately educated and trained for their role. It is possible that the SCoR voluntary register may become part of a system of “voluntary assured registration”.

The public voluntary register for assistant practitioners has operated since 2005 but of those members that claim assistant practitioner as their membership status, only a small proportion have sought accreditation and have their name entered on the voluntary register. The implication is that, for the remainder, we do not know their scope of practice and the training that underpins it nor do we know if they engage in continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain their skills and competence.

Additionally, as members of the Society of Radiographers (SoR), assistant practitioners are entitled to benefits of membership such as professional indemnity insurance. However, if they are not accredited then the SoR and possibly their supervising radiographers do not know whether they have been “adequately educated and trained” for the tasks they are delegating to them. Therefore from January 2013, all members who claim to be assistant practitioners will be asked to apply for accreditation. In due course, those who do not seek accreditation will be informed that their membership status will be annotated as “support worker” or “radiography department helper”. They will not be subsequently recognised by the SoR for any clinical activity relating to imaging or treatment.

As part of a professional workforce the expectation is that assistant practitioners like any other healthcare practitioner should be willing to place themselves on a voluntary register to signify that they accept the SCoR’s professional standards and its Code of Conduct and Ethics 6 just as radiographer members are required to maintain their registered status with the Health Professions Council (HPC).

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