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Thousands of clinicians ‘unable to work’ after registration blunder

Published on: 6 May 2022

Thousands of physiotherapists have been left unable to work after they accidentally failed to reregister with the Health and Care Professions Council, HSJ has been told.

The physios – including many working in the NHS – have been advised by the HCPC they can’t work using the title ‘physiotherapist’ until they are restored to the register, although they may be able to work under supervision if their employer agrees.

Physios all had a window to renew their registration between February and the end of April. But around 5,500 are understood to have missed the cutoff point – out of a total registered workforce of 61,000. Some of these may have chosen to leave the register but many others seem to have been unaware of the deadline and intended to stay on the register. 

HSJ has been told that some physios, having learned of the issue, have been sent home from work, while others had been able to continue working but as support workers. In one case a physio had 40 NHS patients booked this week but would not be able to see them, a Chartered Society of Physiotherapy spokesman said.

Staff have reported missing the regulator’s emails because they were sent to spam folders.

The CSP has told all affected physios to immediately inform their manager and ask what the local policy is on what roles they can undertake and what pay they will receive until/unless they have re-registered.

However, the society has warned they could be placed on gardening leave, and some employers could start an investigatory process for their failure to follow the registration process.

The HCPC said it sent emails to all physios for whom it had an email addres and 99.6 per cent of these were delivered – although it does not know whether they went into a spam folder. This was followed up in April by a second email. Where the email was not delivered or the HCPC did not have an email addres, efforts were made to contact registrants by phone and then, if unsuccessful, by letter. 

Andrew Smith, executive director of regulation at the HCPC, said 91 per cent of physios had renewed by the deadline. This was towards the bottom of its normal range of 90 to 97 per cent – although some were likely to  intentionally not re-register. He accepted it was ”clearly upsetting and potentially disruptive” for those who had accidentally been deregistered.

In the last few days physios have been finding they are no longer on the register. Many have complained on Twitter that they have been unable to get through to the HCPC by phone or that the link to make payment is not working. 

In a statement on its website, the HCPC said it understood this was a “distressing situation for anyone to find themselves in” and promised to work to get the physios back on the register as soon as possible. It added that it aimed to do this within 10 working days of receiving their readmission form and fee, but it could be quicker. Mr Smith said: ”At the moment we doing this within three days. We have people working overtime and weekends to do that.”

The CSP has urged physios to agree with employers what duties they can undertake while waiting to be readmitted to the register and what pay they will receive. It stressed that anyone affected should immediately register with the HCPC but must stop advising or seeing patients as a registered practitioner. In some cases, affected physios may be able to work as a physiotherapy assistant while waiting for reregistration but will need to work to that job description and have tasks delegated to them.

A CSP spokesman said: “The NHS needs more physios – there is a workforce shortage – and no services can afford to lose them.” He stressed the CSP was working closely with the HCPC to resolve the issue as soon as possible.