Have Social Workers Been Sold Down The River to the HPC?

Source  HCPC Watchdog


Before beginning to dissect the three and a half pages of text produced by the panel at yesterday’s hearing, I want to take time to consider the phrase ‘struck off’.

It is a little relic from the old days, which referred to the action of a man with a pen striking the name of another from a written register. It has the grandness of ritual written into it. ‘Struck off’ includes a gesture, a performance, and an audience. All this was necessary to invest the meaning of the phrase with the importance of the act and the magnitude of the misdemeanour perpetrated by the offender.

For those professions that have their roots in those old days, it is understandable that they keep the nomenclature, repeat the ritual, recite the words. It is a kind of homage paid to the pioneers who worked hard to establish a practice and who tried to set and maintain a standard. Without the work of these people who came before, it says, no-one would enjoy the fruits of this labour today.

Why, tho, is it within the language of the HPC?

The HPC is new, was brought into being by the Privy Council under New Labour, and is set up on the understanding that old professions are a danger to the public and must be transformed. Leaving aside for the moment the small detail that the HPC does not regulate the old professions, it is worth wondering why they would begin to dress themselves in this borrowed garb.

When the HPC first emerged onto the scene it did so with all appropriate marketing. Four posters from an early campaign are pinned to the wall on the way to the rooms of the hearing. Here is the text of their message:

1. A picture of a man dressed up as Dr McCoy from Star Trek on the Bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. The Headline: “You can trust me… I’m the real McCoy.” The small print: “Who can say if a health professional is genuine? The fact is that any genuine health professional must shortly be registered with the Health Professionals Council. The HPC is the statutory UK body appointed to regulate and maintain the standards of 12 health professions. To use one of the professional titles below, pretenders have until July 8th 2005 to meet our criteria. If they prove to be genuine, they can join over 150,000 professionals already on our register. Anything less and they’re on a different planet.”

Leaving aside the facile tone of this poster, I want simply to point out the argument that is being put to use. Before the 8th July 2005 the health professionals are pretenders, afterwards those accepted onto the register of the HPC are real.

2. A picture of a woman with a very very very long nose and rouged cheeks, looking a little like Pinocchio. The words on a poster behind her: “The Muscle Management Consultancy” The voice bubble: “professional titles? to tell you the truth they’re a thing of the past!” The small print: Who can say if a health professional is genuine? Sometimes letters after a name don’t prove anything. Anyone who is a genuine health professional with genuine qualifications must shortly be registered with the Health Professionals Council … after that telling lies becomes an offence.”

3. Picture of a woman in a spot light, wearing something in very large check. The speech bubble: “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be … a Health Professional!”. The Small Print: “Who can say if health professional is genuine. You don’t become qualified overnight. All genuine health professionals must shortly be registered with the Health Professions Council… after that they are acting beyond the law.”

4. Picture of a man in a white coat and a swimming hat standing in front of a wall of certificates. Speech bubble: “Fitness to Practise? I can show you hundreds of certificates.” He is holding up a certificate got from school days proclaiming him swimming champion 1978. The Small Print: “Some qualifications aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. All genuine health professionals must soon be registered with the health Professionals Council to prove their credentials. … All true professionals have until 8 July 2005 to become registered with us or lose the right to use titles listed below. Those that lie will be in deep water.


In this two-dimensional world there would appear to be only liars or truth tellers, fakers or real things, criminals or innocents, locals or aliens. Invisible in this simple scene is the One in charge of telling the difference, the One whose job it is to hold the scales and to decide. This is the HPC.

Is this a good time to ask: who, exactly, are these people, hidden just off screen?