Seating Arrangements on the Titanic


Oh dear. Quite a few people mistakenly call the Registrar at the HCPC, Mr Searle. It’s a common mistake and one that I’ve made myself, but it’s actually Mr Seale. Even Mr Holland tripped up a couple of times in October and he gets all the cheques! The memory isn’t quite what it was these days, but I usually find it’s helpful if you just remember ‘slippery’ – which turns out to be quite apt. Twelve years is an awfully long time….

Because we go from this:

“From July 9th, 2003, the titles below are protected by law. Anyone using one of these titles must be registered with the Health Professions Council, or they may be subject to prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000.”

To this….





….and in our professional journal this month, they tried again….

Questions from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists for the HCPC

Jonathan Jones, Stakeholder Communications Manager at the Health and Care Professions Council, answers your questions about the misuse of protected titles and the action the HCPC takes against those who imply they are HCPC registered when not registered.

1. What action does the HCPC take when you receive information that that a foot health practitioner is claiming to be a chiropodist / podiatrist?

The aim of the HCPC is to ensure ongoing compliance with the law. If the HCPC receives information that a protected title is potentially being misused, its first step is to contact the person or organisation concerned, explain the law, and inform them that they should not use the title unless they are entitled to do so.

Where there is evidence to show that an offence is being committed, the HCPC will send out a ‘cease and desist’ notice, which sets out what action it will take if the person or organisation continues to break the law. In most cases, people do comply at this stage.

If anyone continues to misuse a protected title, the HCPC’s Chief Executive or Director of Fitness to Practise can authorise a prosecution. Some cases close on receipt of this notice of prosecution. If not, the case goes to court and if convicted, individuals are liable to a fine of up to £5,000.

2. Equally, what action does the HCPC when you receive information that a non-HCPC registered (degree qualified) podiatrist is calling themselves a chiropodist / podiatrist?

It is a criminal offence to imply that you are registered with the HCPC when you are not. We would therefore take the same action as outlined above. {Eh?}

3. What about anyone who calls themselves a ‘formerly registered podiatrist’ and actively makes sure that all their patients are aware they are not registered with the HCPC?

It is important to bear in mind that we must treat every situation on a case-by-case basis. The key consideration when determining whether someone has misused a protected title and be liable for prosecution is if there was an intention to deceive (whether expressly or by implication). The HCPC is unlikely to pursue cases where there is clearly no intention to deceive. On a related note, quite understandably many professions are proud to be part of their profession after retirement so they may choose to use a term like “Retired Podiatrist” or “Former Podiatrist”. Similar qualifying adjectives are also acceptable which do not intend to imply registration such as “Student Occupational Therapist” or “Equine Physiotherapist”.

4. If someone is offering chiropody or podiatry services but not using the title chiropodist or podiatrist will the HCPC still take action?

Yes. As outlined above, it is an offence to either misuse a protected title or to imply that you offer chiropody or podiatry services. Therefore, if someone who described themselves, for example, as a “Foot Health Practitioner” and said that they offered chiropody or podiatry services we would take action.

9. At what point does misrepresentation become a criminal act?

If someone states or implies that they are registered and they are not, or uses a protected titled which they are not entitled to use, they are liable to prosecution and if convicted could face a fine of up to £5,000. The ultimate decision as to whether a crime has been committed rests with the court / judge.

10. What are the penalties for ‘holding out’, and do you think they are a sufficient deterrent?

If an individual ‘holds out’, or in other words pretends to be registered when they are not, then we can take action, as outlined above. In most cases individuals comply having received a ‘cease and desist’ notice, or even before this once we have made our initial contact with them explaining the law. For the period 2013–14 the HCPC received 325 new protection of title referrals, 101 of which related to chiropody / podiatry. Of these cases, 94 were remedied prior to a ‘cease and desist’ notice being sent out.

If the individual fails to comply and the HCPC authorises a prosecution, some cases close on receipt of this notice of prosecution. If not, the case goes to court and if convicted, individuals are liable to a fine of up to £5,000. The fact that most cases close before they reach this stage suggests that the initial letter explaining the law, the cease and desist notice, the notice of prosecution, and the potential fine, all act as deterrents to the misuse of protected titles.

11. Do you think that the current legal framework is robust enough to protect the public?

Yes. The system of regulation that our legislation allows us to operate is based on the protection of titles, not functions. This approach means that the public are protected by using professionals who meet our statutory standards and can easily check registration. Not protecting specific functions has clear benefits for the professions. It means that roles can change and develop over time with minimum intervention from the regulator. We review our standards on an ongoing basis with involvement of the professions as well as service users, employers, unions and others to ensure that they continue to be fit for purpose. Our processes are robust and are regularly audited both internally and externally

Oh what a wicked web we weave….

You know, I can’t find the words “protected titles” in that thick bundle of pages of the legislation that they sent with the summons nearly three years ago now.  It was only loosely tied up when it arrived and I think a few pages must’ve dropped out. Oh dear!

I wonder if he’ll show face? He’s probably busy contemplating an internal audit, but maybe I should call into Lanigan’s on the way through, just in case….

The evidence suggests that some people just never learn.

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