For decades, non-statutorily regulated healthcare professions have adopted a self-regulatory mechanism of management through voluntary, society-based registration. In an effort to promote optimal service standards for all healthcare professions, and to enhance the public’s accessibility to these, the Chief Executive introduced a voluntary accredited registers scheme for supplementary healthcare professions in the 2016 Policy Address.

17th February 2017 marked the end of the application period for Accredited Registers Scheme for Healthcare Professions (AR Scheme), which covers the existing 15 healthcare professions involved.

The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (JCSPHPC) has been appointed as the relevant independent accreditation body, responsible for approving accreditations and providing the relevant certifications.

In June, the government announced that five healthcare professions are preliminarily assessed to meet the criteria for accreditation, namely speech therapists, clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, audiologists and dietitians. The JCSPHPC expects that the accreditation process for the speech therapists profession will be completed by the fourth quarter of 2017 and will then submit accreditation results to the DH for consideration. Accreditation results are expected to be announced by the end of 2017. For the other four healthcare professions assessed to have met the criteria, the JCSPHPC will further communicate with them on their submissions and will conduct the accreditation in phases in 2018, depending on the readiness of each profession.

Upholding professional standard to protect public's interest

As the AR Scheme allows only one controlling body to represent each healthcare profession, most professions have already reached a unified agreement to be merged prior to the submission of their applications.

Unfortunately, strong contrasts between the Hong Kong Clinical Psychologists Association (HKCPA) and Hong Kong Association of Doctors in Clinical Psychology (HKADCP) have deterred smooth unifying operations between the two.

Both parties vehemently disagree with the professional standards and requirements set by the opposite party, hence applications were submitted separately for these associations. However, separate applications under one profession field have a higher chance of being disqualified or rejected.

According to Dr Charles Wai-Ho Pau, Vice Chair (Membership & Professional Standard) of Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) at Hong Kong Psychological Society (HKPS), the divergence between the two was mostly rooted in the differences in training standard.

Although Pau emphasised that there will be no compromise on standards to achieve consensus, he spoke to MIMS in November to introduce an inclusive approach to ensure fair access to the Accredited Registers, while at the same time upholding professional standard.

Healthcare practitioners urge financial support from the government

Mr King-Lok Lai, Chairman of the Speech Therapists’ Association, has submitted his association’s application but highlighted the increased financial needs that are expected upon recognition of the group.

“Self-financing modes of operation rely on funds generated from membership fees. However, in cases like lawsuits, such fees may not be sufficient, hence our association may bear risk of bankruptcy within the first 2 years of operation,” he explained.

For the moment, to stabilise finances, increasing membership fees looks to be the only option. However, such increments may lead to the decreased participation of members. “The annual membership fee is currently HKD500, and it may need to be increased to HKD2,000 to support the body’s financial needs,” Lai said. He hopes the government can provide a sustainable economic support. MIMS

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