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Supporting innovation in practice-based learning

23 Sep 2020
  • Education and training
  • Our standards

Brendon Edmonds

Head of Education

Like many aspects of the way we live and work, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic we have been reflecting on the delivery of education and training for our professions in the future.  We have seen some truly innovative solutions to the challenges facing healthcare education including:

As a professional regulator, we must ensure we continue to fulfil our public protection remit in a way that enables healthcare services to develop, adapt and innovate through initiatives such as these. In the area of education, we do this by setting standards which ensure individuals are trained in a way that promotes safe and  effective practice. We also do this by enabling education providers, professional bodies and workforce bodies to determine how this is best achieved within our education standards, through the development of sector wide professional guidance and localised programme delivery. 

In this blog, we explore how our standards can support innovation in two key areas relating to practice based learning (PBL): Technology-enabled care services and Multidisciplinary approaches to practice-based learning.

Technology-enabled care services (TECs) based placements

TECs are being implemented across many healthcare services as a result of restrictions placed on traditional care pathways by COVID-19. The importance of this aspect of practice is reflected in our proposed changes to standards of proficiency, currently out for consultation. These proposed new standards include a requirement for all registrants to ‘be able to keep up to date with digital skills and new technologies.’

Education providers are already encouraged to consider the range of PBL opportunities they make available to support the delivery of their curriculum through our Standards of education and training which says; ‘the structure, duration and range of practice-based learning must support the achievement of the learning outcomes and the standards of proficiency. (SET 5.2)

Embedding suitable TECs-based opportunities can certainly form part of the overall profile education providers are looking to offer going forward and we welcome education providers seeking to innovate in this area. Importantly, education providers must be able to assure the quality of this type of placement in the same way as any other placement setting. This would include being satisfied about the arrangements for supervision, and that the environment is safe and supportive for learners. 

“Technology-enabled care services placements have given our students the opportunity to work in partnership with service providers, to develop personalised care for clients and to reduce their isolation during COVID-19.

For example, students at Leeds Beckett University have developed the same level of competence with their HCPC Standards of Proficiency as they did with onsite placements. Additionally, they have developed their telehealth skills and this has enhanced their employability in the current climate.”

Jo Sandiford, Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and Lead Author of the Royal College Of Speech & Language Therapist’s (RCSLT) Practice-based learning guidance – due to be published in Spring 2021

Multidisciplinary approaches to practice-based learning

Our standards for registrants are structured in such a way to recognise the common areas of knowledge, skills and abilities that all professions hold. Through the challenge of securing more practice-based learning opportunities, education providers have the opportunity within our standards to explore how ‘non-traditional’ practice settings could be used to support learners achieving the outcomes they require.

There are two areas worth highlighting in relation to this, firstlyPractice educators must have relevant knowledge, skills and experience to support safe and effective learning and, unless other arrangements are appropriate, must be on the relevant part of the Register.’ (SET 5.6)

Whilst we expect registered professionals to be involved in practice education, our standards support the use of practice educators from other professional backgrounds to provide learners with teaching and supervision, where this is line with the education provider’s own policies. This would include individuals on other statutory registers and the use of the wider healthcare workforce where this is deemed appropriate, to support the achievement of specific learning outcomes.

Whilst we also require that education providers maintain overall responsibility for quality assurance of PBL settings, how this is achieved can be based on collaborative arrangements within and across education providers, professions and systems-based organisations (such as NHS Education for Scotland, Health Education England, Health Education and Improvement Wales). This may be the case where multiple professions access the same sites and want to collaborate around developing consistent tools which can be used for quality purposes, and in some cases, also assess core capabilities to be achieved by learners. These standards provide scope to explore potential opportunities to create cohesion and capacity regarding the quality assurance of practice-based learning. 

 “The collaboration across all stakeholders to support and enable placement innovation, alongside our students desire to get involved, is transformational in what we can all achieve together. Delivery of significant increases in high quality clinical placements will be an essential part of our ongoing delivery of the Long-Term Plan over the next decade.  This innovation now will enable this delivery in the long term. The enabling leadership and support from the HCPC has been invaluable.” 

Beverley Harden, Deputy Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, England

We encourage education providers to consider exploring these and other areas of innovation on approved programmes, where the quality of teaching and learning can be maintained. Our standards set out an enabling framework to support providers in this endeavour. We also encourage providers to consider any available professional body guidance relating to this. 

For further detailed advice contact our Education team via


Page updated on: 23/09/2020