I beg to move,
That this House
has considered registration fees at the Health and Care Professions Council.
You and I have known each other a long time, Mr McCabe, but I think that this is the first time I have led a debate under your chairmanship. I hope you will show a bit of leniency, particularly to some of my hon. Friends. I thank Mr Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means for making provision for the debate. In actual fact, we were granted the debate at short notice; I think somebody else pulled out. Hon. Members will have to excuse me—I have a heavy cold, to say the least. I hope they can all hear me.
The debate follows on from early-day motion 2069, which I tabled last month and which condemned the Health and Care Professions Council’s unfair rise in registration fees. To date, that early-day motion has been signed by a truly cross-party group of 118 MPs, which shows the real concern across the House; it is very hard to get such a number. I hope that the debate leads to a rethink from the HCPC and the Government.
The HCPC exists to regulate health and care professionals. It sets standards, investigates complaints and keeps a register of workers in 16 different professions. Members might be interested to know what those professions are: arts therapist; biomedical scientist; chiropodist and podiatrist; clinical scientist; dietician; hearing aid dispenser; occupational therapist; operating department practitioner; orthoptist; paramedic; physiotherapist; practitioner psychologist; prosthetist and orthotist—I do not know what those are; radiographer; social worker, in England; and speech and language therapist. That covers quite a wide range, to say the least. Notably, social workers in England are still covered, despite plans to change that from 2019. Altogether, the HCPC regulates more than 360,000 professionals, 90,000 of whom are social workers.
To register, professionals have to pay an annual registration fee, which is currently £90. In autumn last year, the HCPC announced plans to raise its registration fees from £90 to £106 per year—an 18% rise. That follows a 5% rise in 2014 and a further 12.5% rise in 2015 so with the new rise, fees will have risen by 40% since 2014. The HCPC argues that the rise is necessary in order to secure its financial health, giving five main reasons for the fee increase.
First, it plans to increase efforts to prevent problems before they occur. Secondly, it wants to use innovation and technology to modernise and improve services. Thirdly, it needs to address a caseload that is growing in number and complexity. Fourthly, it needs to address the impact of inflation since its last fee increase. Finally, it needs to pre-empt the transfer of social workers to a new regulatory body. While the HCPC has faced higher expenditure since 2015, these reasons cannot possibly support an 18% rise. Expenditure increased by £2.8 million in 2017-18, but £400,000 went on redundancy packages for management staff and £1.2 million went on refurbishing the HCPC head office.
The HCPC put its plans for a fee increase to its members over the winter. Responses to the consultation were damning, with 90% of respondents opposing the increase. Despite the findings of the consultation, the HCPC decided last month to impose the 18% increase. It has defended the rise by saying that its fees are lower than those of any other health and care regulator. However, other regulators are not comparable. Some cover very few members, reducing their economies of scale.