Tips on How to Get Your HCPC Registration Quickly

NHS Rainbow

If you’re overseas and looking to work as a dietitian in the UK, you’re not alone! The UK government reports that around 15% of NHS staff and about 1 in 10 dietitians in the UK are internationally trained. As the process to transfer qualifications is lengthy, I wanted to write about my experience to help future dietitians and other health professionals.

Registering with the Health and Care Professions Council is the first step to working as a dietitian in the UK. Along with dietitians, this credentialing body is responsible for registering most allied health care professions in the UK, like physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. This means your application will be one of many – in the period from January 2021 to March 2022, the HCPC added 21,000 professionals to their register.

HCPC Registration Time Frame

I quickly learned that asking how long the HCPC process takes is like asking how long a piece of string is. The process and timelines are all very individual. At the time I applied, the HCPC stated on their website that the process for international applicants took 60 days. However, I was hard pressed to find anyone who had experienced such quick processing times. You can see how long the median time frame is for an application via the Professional Standards Authority website. Because of the unpredictable nature of the process, I would recommend applying while you are still in the country where you received original qualification if it is a possibility.

Unfortunately, applicants have very little control over how long the process takes. But with something as important as this, we all want to feel like we have a little more control, and there are some things you can do to help the process run more smoothly.

1. Talk to others who have been through the process

There’s no better person to ask than someone who has been through the process themselves. Reddit groups for your specialty, Facebook groups for those from your country moving to the UK, and HCPC online support groups are all excellent places to meet others who have registered or are in the process of registering. You’ll be able to learn about other people’s timelines and ask questions on how to best format your application. They are also great places to find advice on applying for jobs and visas.

2. Try to apply during less busy periods

If you are able to, it may be faster to submit outside of typical graduation times. According to the HCPC, the summer months are peak times for UK applicants, likely due to incoming graduates. I would hazard a guess that this likely puts a strain on their international review process as well. If you’re a recent graduate yourself, you may not be able to help this, but if you’re already in the workforce, I would try to apply outside of usual graduation times. In my experience, I applied the summer I graduated and waited an excruciating six months to receive an outcome.

3. Check everything very carefully before submitting

I am sure this is something we all do already! However, some of the longest delays happen when applicants are asked for additional information. This can be due to missing details during the verification process, such as an incorrect email address or missing date, or during the assessment process, where assessors might say that certain standards cannot be found in the information provided. From what I have seen in online support groups, delays during the assessment process are the longest. Not only does it take time for you to find and collate any further information, but when you do send it to the HCPC, there are long internal processes which can cause delays, as it can take many more weeks for them to process this information and make a decision.

4. Follow up often and ask for dates

Although they say that they’ll tell you if there are any issues with your application, I was never contacted and would not have known what was happening with my application if I had not contacted them first! I think it’s also important to ask for specific dates if you are told that something has been done in relation to your application (i.e. that it’s now with assessors, that further information has been received, etc).

For months when I called, I was told that my application was with the assessors, only for them to start telling me one day that it had actually only just reached the assessors months later, and that I would have to wait months more. Although it may not have made a difference, I wonder if I had asked for the date it had been sent when they first told me this, if they would have caught some error and sent it sooner. This is why I would recommend calling often and, if you are told that there has been a change to your application, to ask for the date that it occurred.

5. Attach a guide showing how you have met each standard of proficiency

I have seen quite a few people (after having meticulously filled out their applications with exactly what is asked of them) presented with further information requests for information they have already provided. To answer these requests, applicants will usually be asked to show how they have met certain standards, which they’ll answer with a description of how they have met each of the “missing” competencies. This can put further delays on the application process.

While the onus should be on them to correctly read through your application, it doesn’t feel like this is always what happens. I have seen some people attach a sheet of how they have achieved each standard of practice for their profession when they originally submit their application.

For example, the eighth standard of proficiency for dietitians is to “be able to communicate effectively.” For this, you could say that you met this standard in a communications-related class during your studies or talk about how communicating with members of an interdisciplinary team was important in any of your previous roles.

As time-consuming as it is, when first sending your application, I would go through each competency (and sub-competency) and point to an area of your application (either on your course information list or experiences) where you met that standard. This way, you have made it incredibly easy for them to see how you’ve met each standard in a format that is easy for them to check off. If they “can’t find” something, you’ll have to do this anyway for the missing competencies, and wait a few extra months, so I think it’s worth it to send it with your application to begin with.

6. Relax

Once you have hit “submit,” you have little to no control over how quickly your application is processed. In talking to others who have also been through this process, I have rarely if ever heard of an application being outright denied. I have also worked in the UK with people who have qualified in many different countries, so however long it takes, I would try to relax with the thought that it is likely you will get your registration eventually.

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