The Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), which regulates social workers, paramedics, and a wide range of healthcare workers, including physiotherapists, dietitians, radiographers, and psychologists, has pressed ahead with a planned annual registration fee hike, despite widespread opposition to the move.
In a statement issued on 14 February, the HCPC Council said that it had “reluctantly agreed to proposals to increase the registration renewal fee by £16 from £90 to £106 per year. Council also agreed proposed increases to other registration fees.”
The decision followed an in-depth analysis of the responses to the consultation on the proposals, which closed in December, it said.
“Council recognised that the majority of respondents disagreed with proposals to increase the renewal fee and explored the concerns of many organisations and the individual registrants who responded.
“However, Council agreed the need to safeguard HCPC’s financial sustainability, to ensure that it can continue to fulfil its statutory role to protect the public and its commitment to meet the expectation of stakeholders.”
The HCPC said that it has already identified savings to running costs as well as additional revenue streams, but that it would still struggle to cover overheads without increasing its fees.
But UNITE the union, many of whose members will be affected, described the fee hike as “extortionate”, and a “snub” in the face of a 38,000-signature petition protesting at the 18% increase, which was handed over to the HCPC ahead of the Council meeting.
Unite lead professional officer for regulation Jane Beach said: “The views of the 38,000 mainly health professionals who signed the petition have been ignored, which is very disappointing, given the cogent arguments we put forward that NHS pay has stagnated in real terms while the cost of living has raced ahead.
“The HCPC has given a massive snub to our members’ legitimate concerns about any fee hike.”
The British Psychological Society has voiced concerns that the increase is intended to make up for the HCPC’s predicted loss of income when social workers in England transfer to a new regulator in 2019.
As social workers account for more than half of the fitness to practise cases the HCPC hears, the HCPC’s costs should decrease significantly when they leave its register, it says.
But Marc Seale, HCPC chief executive and registrar, said: “We are very sensitive to the concerns of respondents and recognise the strength of views expressed. We are also very aware of the economic context in which our registrants and the HCPC operate. We have, therefore, identified cost reductions and income generation opportunities to minimise the impact of these increases.
“However, as a self-financing regulator we do not receive any ongoing funding from other sources. Whilst our Council has agreed to these increases, we continue to have the lowest fee of all the independent UK health and care regulators.”