Working Abroad Part 2: HCPC Registration (UK)
While Australian health professionals are rarely denied registration, the application is definitely not quick and easy. I started the process in July 2015, and was granted my registration on 9th February, 2016. From start to finish, my application took about 7 months. It doesn’t “usually” take that long, but it easily can. To work in the United Kingdom as an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, Speech & Language Therapist, Paramedic, Clinical Scientist, Dietician, Podiatrist, Psychologist, Social Worker, or other allied health professional, Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration is essential.
The HCPC have virtually the same role as the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA). They ensure that health professionals uphold quality standards and follow the law. To be registered to practice in the UK, you need to apply to the HCPC. I was told the process can take up to six months, so I completed my HCPC application as the first step in process of moving. I didn't want to book flights etc, and then find that I'd be unable to work as an OT.
I completed my Occupational Therapy degree in Australia, so I had to complete an International application for registration. The application form is available on the HCPC website, and includes a list of what needs to be submitted. Keep in mind that the requirements could change and I am writing this about my own experience, so be sure to follow the HCPC guidance notes, which can be found following the application form.
Parts of the application:
The Application Form: This is about 12 pages that I had to fill in about myself.
My contact details etc., were fairly straightforward. Providing information about my previous OT jobs strained my brain a bit, and having to handwrite it on the application form feels like extra pressure to get it right the first time. When describing my previous OT roles, I just wrote a simple introductory sentence, followed by a list of what my work involved. The lists included the client group, assessments (formal and informal), interventions, evaluation, and extra things like group programs.
Course Details Form: This may sound easy, but it's actually quite complicated. It must be completed by the university, in my case, the University of Queensland. They have staff in the therapies admin team who take care of these forms. It cost $165 and I had to provide details of all prac experiences (including first and second years) and electives. UQ sent me a form to fill out, to enable them to complete their form. The HCPC aren't interested in your academic transcript, but it might be handy to refer to this to check all your elective subjects are correct. It took a week or two for UQ to complete the form once I had provided all my course details.
Professional References: This can be tricky if you’re trying not to inform your current employer about your intention to move overseas, but you need someone from your most recent workplace to complete the reference, such as a team leader or senior OT. The application form provides two reference forms and says you need to submit at least one. I had been in the same job for a few years, and my work was quite classic OT practice, so I just submitted one, completed by my team leader, a physiotherapist. I think the point of this form is to prove that you are working as an occupational therapist in a "safe and effective" manner. If I was working in a role that wasn’t a traditional OT role, or if "Occupaitonal Therapist" wasn't my job title, I might've got a second reference from a previous job to show I had “traditional” OT skills.
Personal Reference: I asked a family friend, who is a church minister, to complete this part for me. There is a list of who can vouch for you as an upstanding citizen on the form. The difficult part of this was just posting the form back and forwards, since they didn't live near me.
“Certificate of professional status from the regulator in the country where you last practised”: This sounds complicated, but is very easy. There is a short form to fill out on the AHPRA website. It costs $50. They send the certificate directly to HCPC, electronically. I did this step aroundnthe time I posted the rest of the application so there wouldn't be too much of a gap between the two things arriving.
Payment (“Scrutiny Fee”) form: Fill out your credit card details or send a cheque/money order. Keep in mind that this will be an international transaction, in GBP, so you might want to check the conditions of your credit card to make sure you don’t get a nasty surprise. The fee is £495, which was about AU$1,000 when I applied.
Certified Copies of Important Documents: Be sure to read the guidance notes carefully on this one, as they need to be recently certified and have specific wording in the certification. They require:
Two identifying documents (e.g. passport / birth certificate / driver’s licence).
If you have changed your name, certified evidence of this needs to be submitted (e.g. marriage certificate).
Certified copy of your qualification certificate (OT degree)
Background Check Consent Form: I just filled it in and signed it.
The application form took me about 6-8 weeks to fully complete and submit. I sent the form to London by Australia Post’s CourierPost service, which offers a door to door tracking service. Then I waited about nine weeks, and nothing happened. I was really worried because the payment hadn’t been taken (which is meant to be the first step in the process).
When I emailed them to check the status of my application, they reported they had emailed me earlier about the payment. I didn’t receive an email. Anyway, the cost of application processing changed after I signed the credit card payment authorisation, so that page was instantly shredded. I had to give my card details again, over a crackly international phone line. The payment went through instantly. The woman I first spoke to made a comment like “it’s a good thing they’ve actually got on with processing your application and not just left it sitting here waiting for payment.” But the next one said “Your application should be processed within twelve weeks.” I also got a letter in the post about a week later, saying again that it should be processed within twelve weeks.
Eleven weeks went by and I heard nothing. I emailed them again to check the status. Apparently. they had posted me a letter only two weeks after my payment to say that my application was approved, and I needed to phone them to arrange payment of my registration. I had not received the letter (though this was probably not HCPC’s fault, it happened with other mail too).
I phoned them, paid my registration fee, and I was so very relieved when my HCPC occupational therapy registration certificate and card arrived in the post.
The Cost of Registration:
Applying for registration in the UK was more expensive than I expected. Here is the breakdown of my costs, in Australian dollars:
- UQ Course Details Form Fee (money order): $173.95
- AHPRA Certificate Fee: $50
- Postage to London (CourierPost with tracking): $54.10
- Application Scrutiny Fee: $1,072.58 (£495)
- UK Registration Fee: $371.28, (£180) valid for 2 years
- Total: $1,721.91
So, that's the story of how I got my HCPC registration. I hope that your story is short and sweet. Please post any questions and I'll try to reply quickly.
Or was your experience different to mine? Please share…