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Staffing issuesNov 29, 2022

HCPC consults over preceptorship proposals as some professions lose new recruits at alarming rate

One health professional in 17 (six per cent) quits their profession within a four-year period of becoming registered, according to Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) records.

But in some of the 15 health professions that are regulated by the HCPC – of which physiotherapy is one of the largest – the figure rises to an alarming one in eight, with the professions most affected due to be identified shortly.

Physiotherapy is unlikely to have one of the worst attrition records, because registrants from the ‘smaller’ professions have been found to be more likely to leave their chosen profession relatively early.

Details of the contrasting rates appear in an HCPC document – titled Consultation on principles for preceptorship – that was published on 26 October, with the deadline for responses closing next month (21 December).

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Some health workers 'do not feel valued or supported' and give up on career plans early

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'High pressures' on health and social care sectors

In a foreword Naomi Nicholson, the HCPC executive director of professional practice and insight, said registrants ‘play a vital role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a huge number of health conditions’ but work in sectors that currently face ‘high pressures’.

‘We know that, across the four UK nations, there are a wide range of initiatives to support current workforce retention and plan for the future workforce. The HCPC’s role as a professional healthcare regulator is to protect patient and service user safety and the development of these guiding principles forms a key part of our corporate strategy to promote high-quality professional practice.'

Ms Nicholson added: ‘These principles aim to support consistently high-quality preceptorship provision, for use by registrants, employers and all those who support registrants at key career transition points.’

Ms Nicholson identified three main objectives

  • support the future workforce to feel valued
  • increase confidence levels among those in new roles
  • support registrants to stay in their chosen professions in the long term

Individual registrants’ decisions to leave the register may be based on any number of factors [but] effective preceptorship support through periods of transition may go some way in helping to support registrants remain in their professions longer [HCPC]

The HCPC figures, based on records covering a period from 2013-2018, reveal a ‘strong relationship’ between a profession’s size and how long practitioners stay registered – ‘with smaller professions experiencing higher leaving rates’, the document states.

‘While individual registrants’ decisions to leave the register may be based on any number of factors, it is possible that effective preceptorship support through periods of transition may go some way in helping to support registrants remain in their professions longer.’

The HCPC document voices concern about the access to – and the quality of – support between professions, sectors and the UK as a whole. ‘The stakeholder engagement carried out by HEE [Health Education England] indicates that some healthcare professionals are increasingly not feeling valued or well supported in new roles and that this has a contributing impact on workforce retention.’

What is preceptorship? (summary)

  • a period of structured support and development during periods of career transition
  • ‘preceptees’ are supported by ‘preceptors’ to develop their confidence as autonomous, accountable professionals
  • preceptees should be welcomed and integrated into new roles and supported to continue on their journey of career-long learning and development
  • periods of career transition can cause a ‘sense of instability’: these can be 'challenging' for individuals and organisations and preceptorship can be an effective way of supporting them
  • preceptorship may apply to individuals who are newly qualified, returning to practise, internationally educated professionals working in the UK for the first time or those changing to a significantly different role or work environment

The HCPC wants ‘interested parties’ to comment on a set of five proposed principles, which cover the following topics

  • organisational culture and preceptorship
  • quality and oversight of preceptorship
  • preceptee empowerment
  • preceptor role
  • delivering preceptorship programmes

What does the HCPC say will happen next?

‘We are consulting on the proposed principles to ensure that they provide the best support they can for registrants, employers and the wider health and care sector. We will review responses carefully and consider how we might reflect feedback in the final principles to ensure this work reflects the needs of our diverse stakeholders and registrant groups.’

To read about and respond to the HCPC’s Consultation on principles for preceptorship, visit: https://www.hcpc-uk.org/news-and-events/consultations/2022/consultation-on-preceptorship/

To find out more about HEE's National AHP Preceptorship and Foundation Support Programme, visit: https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/allied-health-professions/education-employment/national-ahp-preceptorship-foundation-support

Author: Ian A McMillan
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