I do agree, and I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I should add that while I worked for the NHS, I was a trade union rep for Unite the union and had many encounters with the HCPC. I found it to be opaque in its dealings and difficult to deal with.
I want to mention the effect of the fee increase on part-time workers, because scandalously there is no difference in fees between full-time and part-time workers, so it will have a disproportionate effect on part-time workers, who in the NHS are predominantly female.
If we look at what the HCPC actually does, we find, from its 2018 annual report, that it dealt with complaints against only 0.64% of registrants and that it sanctioned only 0.09%. Many members comment that they receive no benefit or professional services at all from their registration. As we have just discussed, the HCPC operates in a very opaque manner. Trade unions are not recognised within its own workforce, so there is no collective pay bargaining for its own employees and so we do not even know what the HCPC pays its staff.
The HCPC says that it needs this increase so that it can deliver smarter regulation, improve services and mitigate the impact of the transfer of the regulation of social workers to Social Work England. However, I have already talked about how few fitness-to-practise cases the HCPC deals with as a proportion of the total membership. When social worker regulation moves to a new regulator later this year, that should lead to a reduction in fitness-to-practise expenditure, given that 59% of that expenditure currently goes on social work cases. The HCPC’s costs should decrease, not increase, which makes this demand on registrants even more unjustified.
This is Healthcare Science Week and I pay tribute to all the scientists working across our NHS. Their work quite often goes unrecognised, but is an essential component of the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Healthcare scientists and allied health professionals are a vital part of our NHS team.
In conclusion, I call on the HCPC to pause, to delay any decision to increase fees and instead to explore alternative ways to reduce costs and to fully assess the impact of the transfer of social workers.