At a time of pay restraint it is not acceptable for regulators to impose inflation busting fee increases on health and care workers.
I was giving evidence today at the Scottish Parliament Health Committee on secondary legislation that increases registration fees for a range of health and care professions UNISON represents. The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) increased fees by 5% last year and indicated that they would not increase them again for two years. However, they have now come back for a further 12.5% increase after a perfunctory consultation while Westminster was in election purdah.
They claim this is because of a levy from the regulatory overview body, the PCA. However, only 30% of the increase relates to that with the balance reflecting new accommodation and IT systems. This looks opportunistic, particularly when there has no detailed costing was provided. The HCPC also generated a big operating surplus last year and is substantially increasing its reserves.
Needless to say health and care workers are not getting a 12.5% pay rise! The HCPC argue that they are the lowest cost regulator, but comparing paramedics, OTs and ODPs to doctors and dentists was, to put it mildly, insensitive. A UNISON survey of registrants indicates that many staff do not think they get value for money and that the HCPC could do more to reduce unnecessary hearing costs.
Scottish Labour MSP, Richard Simpson moved a motion of annulment, a very rare procedure in the Scottish Parliament. He made a very strong case pointing to the absence of an Equality Impact Assessment on what is a predominately female workforce. He also drew attention to the huge increase in the Chief Executive's pay, up by £26,000, more than the annual pay of many registrants. Also that the fee for Scottish social workers, regulated in Scotland, is only a third of the cost of their English counterparts who are regulated by the HCPC.
Predictably, SNP MSPs voted against the annulment as this increase is supported by the Scottish Government. We will look forward to the minister supporting a 12.5% pay rise next year!
In fairness MSPs did so with no great enthusiasm, they welcomed the fact that this debate took place and that the regulator was put under scrutiny for probably the first time. There is a case for wider reform of UK regulatory bodies and they might find it more difficult if they return for another increase next year.
Putting the increase under the spotlight was probably the best we could have achieved this year. Health and care workers have no choice but to pay these increases, so they look to their MSPs and MPs to scrutinise these costs vigorously.