Registration agreed.

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Earlier this year the VRCT Assessors Panel wrote an article in the IPEM Newsletter to provide news of progress with the application for regulation of Clinical Technologists by the Health Professions Council (HPC). Since that article appeared much has happened.

The first important development is that, at its meeting held in October 2004, the HPC agreed that the Clinical Technologist profession should be recommended for regulation, without condition. The next stage of this process is for the Department of Health (DH) Regulation Branch to undertake public consultation. Then formulate the necessary legislation, which will be laid before the Scottish and UK Parliaments in 2005. This will mean that the profession will be regulated by the HPC in late 2005 or early 2006. At this point the voluntary register will close. In addition a three year transitional period, expected to end in 2008/2009, is anticipated. However, before we reach that summit, there are a number of key issues that require to be resolved. Including the impact of this decision on: future entrants to the profession, those currently in training, employers, commissioners, and education providers.

Reaching this position has not been straightforward as, prior to this decision being made, the officers of the VRCT held numerous meetings with both the HPC and the DH to discuss and agree aspects of our application. At those meetings important issues such as educational standards, standards of proficiency, scope of practice, agenda for change and the healthcare science career pathways were raised as important indicators of the way forward for the profession.

A key point to report is that the dual entry qualification model of a Medical Physics Clinical Technology degree or Clinical Engineering HNC/HND has now been abandoned. The constituent professional bodies of the VRCT have accepted that the educational standard required by the DH is a qualification that can be independently assessed using the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) assessment system. As this assessment process does not oversee HNC/HND courses, there is now no case to pursue the dual entry qualification model. Thus we have agreed that the minimum entry qualification for the profession will, in the future, be an honours degree in Clinical Technology. This degree will be divided into two branches: Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering, and will be vocational in nature, comprising academic modules and competence-based practical training.

It should be stressed, that those already on the voluntary register or, currently aspiring to join, do not require to possess a degree in Clinical Technology in order to be regulated. However, by 2008/2009 all new entrants to the HPC statutory register will require to hold a degree in Clinical Technology.

Another important issue has been concerns raised by others regarding the need to regulate Clinical Technologists working in Clinical Engineering. On 26 November 2004 the Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Sue Hill, organised a meeting with all interested stakeholders to discuss this issue. In attendance were representatives of: the VRCT, the devolved UK administrations, NHS Estates, DH Regulation Branch, NHS staff side trades unions, educational providers, Strategic Health Authorities, Heads of NHS Clinical Engineering departments, IHEEM, ART, IIE and IPEM. The outcome of the meeting was extremely positive. All attendees agreed that it was of fundamental importance to ensure that those working in clinical engineering were regulated and that the appropriate qualification should be an honours degree in Clinical Technology.

Although all of the major hurdles to regulation have been cleared there is still much to undertake. The main issues to be resolved are listed below along with the steps being taken (in italics):

1. There are insufficient Clinical Technology degrees in existence. By September 2005 there needs to be an increase in the number of courses available. Our conservative estimate is that between 80 to 120 places will be required per year.

There are already a range of Clinical Technology degree programmes in place which mainly support those working in medical physics areas such as nuclear medicine, radiotherapy and radiation protection but Clinical Engineering has only a few. The VRCT and the DH have now established a VRCT Education Providers Group. This was primarily done to support the development of clinical engineering degrees. A number of universities have expressed interest, including: Paisley, Swansea, Bradford, Nottingham, Leicester, Bournemouth, Teesside, Kings College London, NESCOT and the Open University. We also expect others to become involved. This group has held two encouraging meetings and are now working with the National Occupational Standards project to develop the work further. A third meeting will take place in January. We anticipate that by then substantial progress will have been made.

2. We require to develop processes to accredit prior experience and learning which will count towards the acquisition of a Clinical Technology degree.

The education providers have indicated that it is entirely feasible to introduce such processes. Thus those wishing to join the profession who have HNC/HND or equivalent will be able to acquire a Clinical Technology degree in a reasonable time scale. This will be achieved through the accreditation of prior and experiential learning, and the acquisition of additional educational modules and workplace training.

(Note: This means that we will continue to attract into the profession those holding HNC/HND/equivalent qualifications or specialist practical skills. It also ensures that, in the future, all entering the profession will be guaranteed structured, competence-based education and training which is independently assessed.)

3. The IPEM Clinical Technologist Training Scheme, which will play a key role in the transitional period, requires to be updated.

It is anticipated that the IPEM training scheme (under the auspices of the VRCT constituent professional bodies) will be used to accredit training and education processes through the transitional period up until 2008/2009. The IPEM Clinical Technologists' Education and Training Panel are currently actively reviewing and rewriting the Training Scheme in readiness for regulation.

4. In order to meet the needs of the HPC we require to develop Standards of Proficiency for the profession. These describe safe and effective practice which registrants are required to meet. We also need to describe in more detail the scope of practice of the different strands of the profession.

These tasks are currently being undertaken by the VRCT Assessors' Panel and will be completed in early 2005.

5. We need to agree guidance with the DH on the processes required to deal with those in training or not eligible to join the Register at the time of regulation.

The VRCT's constituent professional bodies are working with the DH to agree the necessary processes. Once agreed, this information will be widely circulated.

6. We need to encourage all who are eligible, who have not already joined the voluntary register, to do so.

The VRCT's constituent professional bodies will work with the DH to enable recruitment of all who are currently eligible to join, and to encourage those who are not to become registered on the IPEM Training Scheme.

7. There needs to be a campaign to raise employers awareness of impending regulation and to ensure that financial support is in place to support trainees undergoing degree programmes and workplace training.

Again, the VRCTs constituent professional bodies will work with the DH to educate employers on developments and to ensure that NHS Workforce Development Confederations provide funding for the degree programmes. This will include the associated work based clinical placements.

As you can see there is still much to do before regulation occurs but the future well being of the Clinical Technologist profession is assured. We would urge you to embrace these developments and raise awareness with your colleagues, within your organisation and with all other interested parties.

The VRCT Assessors' Panel:

Jim Methven (IPEM)

David Gandy (ART)

Mick Wingell (IIE)

Andy Mosson (ART)

Andy Iles (IPEM)

David Burrell (IPEM)

Stuart Slade-Carter (IIE)