Royal College of Podiatry concludes on the next steps in reviewing associate membership

At its most recent meeting, the Council of the Royal College of Podiatry concluded on extending associate membership to those from other professions.

The Council of the Royal College of Podiatry (RCPod) has agreed to extend its associate membership category to include other registered healthcare workers.

Registered healthcare workers will need to belong to the appropriate UK or international regulators, such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the General Medical Council (GMC) or the HCPC.

Concerning other members of the support workforce, the Royal College has recently announced that it is now responsible for accrediting and assessing courses that prepare students for roles in the support workforce. The Royal College’s work in this area is still in its infancy, but it is committed to keeping members informed about its progress.

In 2021, HEE published its Standards for the Foot Health Workforce. The standards formally recognised Foot Health Practitioners (FHPs) as part of the foot health support workforce in the NHS in England for the first time. In the future, a similar scenario could develop in the devolved nations, and the framework adopted within England will be a template to follow.

In late 2021, the College sought views from its membership about draft proposals to allow those from other professions, including FHPs, into its associate membership.

At its most recent meeting, Council examined a wide range of options. Its decision follows careful consideration and analysis of the member feedback data and comments, a series of listening events, member sentiment of respondents relative to the total membership, and reflection on the Royal College’s new obligations to set education and training standards for the support workforce. With the reassurance that RCPod now has complete oversight of the way that education and training for the support workforce are accredited and assessed, Council then sought the introduction of additional checks and balances, deciding that admission will be approved only to those support workers who:

  • have completed an RCPod accredited training course to ensure that their standards meet those of the organisation and those set out in HEE’s Standards for the Foot Health Workforce
  • are employed either within the NHS or by a full member of the RCPod in Independent Practice.

The decision to admit FHPs on this exacting basis, and crucially only under the direct supervision of RCPod members, extend this group into the support workforce in the independent sector whilst guaranteeing that they meet the required standards and are supervised in their work by a fully registered podiatrist. It also ensures that the independent sector now has parity with the standards applied in the NHS in its adoption of FHPs as part of the support workforce. Council has also agreed to explore the additional future involvement of support workers within the Royal College.

Michelle Scott, Chairman of the Council of the Royal College of Podiatry, said:

“In recent years, the Royal College has looked to secure two things to benefit public health and the profession: improve the standards of support workers in the independent sector and take steps to attempt to secure the future pipeline of the podiatry workforce. The decision announced today allows for groups of health workers interested in the foot and the lower limb to share knowledge and cooperate as part of one integrated professional group. It also ensures that for un-registered support workers, the right training, education, standards, and supervision are available”.

RCPod will communicate the implementation timeline to members later. For guidance, it is hoped that other registered healthcare professionals and podiatrists who qualified overseas may be able to join as associate members from late 2022/early 2023. RCPod has now started the work to develop the education, training, and standards necessary to offer an admission of the support workforce who meet the criteria. These new entrants could become associate members from the middle of 2023.

The Royal College is to start work later this year to formalise its associate membership offering to these new groups. At its next meeting, Council will begin work to redraft the College bylaws to include these new groups as part of its associate membership and to ensure that the rules are updated correctly to allow this work to happen.