Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology


Professional registration - AAPT viewpoint (comments welcome)

There has recently been articles published on the AAPT website in relation to professional registration; both from our Secretary, Christian Burt to be found here, and a reply from the Academy for Healthcare Science to be found here.

The AAPT, on its formation in 2003, had statutory regulation as one of its main aims for Anatomical Pathology Technologists in the UK. For groups such as APTs aspiring for statutory regulation, the Department of Health established, in 2005, the Voluntary Registration Council for Healthcare Scientists (VRC for HCS) as a stepping stone to full statutory regulation.

The sole purpose of the VRC for HCS was to lead non-regulated Healthcare Science professions into statutory regulation. In June 2014, it was reported that the AHCS had proposed that the registers held by the VRC for HCS were migrated to the AHCS.

The VRC for HCS agreed to this proposal, and on September 1st 2014 the migration of these voluntary registers took place.

In their recent reply article the AHCS stated “where we differ is on the motivation of the professionals and on understanding what statutory regulation can and cannot do. If you believe people who have committed to undertaking a rigorous education and assessment scheme are also committed to not harming patients then why have a large and unwieldy stick that is statutory regulation? Such professionals should seek the ‘kite mark’ of being registered by an independent body that is there for patients and not to promote the profession itself. Employers will recognise an accredited register and understand that professionals registered with such a body have committed to patient safety (although works needs to be done on ensuring all employers understand registration). We have however ample proof that statutory regulation gives you a way of dealing with the few after the fact; it does not prevent the few who harm patients. Everything else is the same in terms of standards for education, articulated proficiencies and a code of professional practice

The AAPT, however, firmly and unequivocally believe that APTs should be a registered group of professionals through statute. HCPC registration, for example, is already well understood and trusted by employers and the general public – and this understanding and trust is created through the fact that the HCPC is a regulator by law, not by consent. It is almost certainly the case that “people who have committed to undertaking a rigorous education and assessment scheme are also committed to not harming patients”, however, no matter how idealistic we may be about our profession, things can and have gone badly wrong (with all of the attendant intense distress to the bereaved, adverse publicity and reputational damage this generates) and as it currently stands, with employers failing to make voluntary registration a condition of employment, the striking off of a practitioner from the AHCS register has no real consequences in terms of the individual continuing to practise, even if dismissed from their current position – after all, the very nature of ‘voluntary registration’ is that it can be opted-out of.

The care and support of bereaved people is at the very heart of the AAPT ethos. This is demonstrated in the continual drive to raise standards and qualifications for APT staff, and to lobby Government for stronger safeguards for the public and the removal of barriers to a responsive and efficient autopsy service. We are, of course, realistic in the knowledge that there is no current will from Government to allow aspirant groups to gain access to statutory regulation, but we will continue to make the case strongly for a change in this stance and a move towards effective, robust protection for the public and the profession itself.

Professional registration will be a main agenda item for the next meeting of the AAPT Council on Friday 9th September 2016. We welcome members’, and other stakeholders’, views on matters relating to regulation – please do so via our dedicated AAPT Council email address

Ishbel Gall FAAPT (AAPT Chair)

John Pitchers FAAPT (Vice-Chair)

Christian Burt (AAPT Secretary)

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