UK Voluntary Register For
Public Health Specialists

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

  1. The Register has been talked about for a long time. Is it now open?

    The Joint Board is now accepting applications and the application pack may be requested from register@riph.org.uk.

  2. What is the UK Voluntary Register?

    Much work over many years has gone into the development of a system of recognition, training and development for Specialists in Public Health from all professional backgrounds. The work programme has had the support of Chief Medical Officers in the UK. In England, specific mention was made in 'Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation' (1998) of the creation of the post of non-medical specialist in public health.

    The Multidisciplinary Public Health Forum, the Faculty of Public Health Medicine (FPHM) and the Royal Institute of Public Health (the Tripartite Group), have now launched the UK Voluntary Register for Specialists in Public Health. Its establishment has been discussed with a wide range of other organisations with an interest in public health.

    Its objective is to promote public confidence in specialist public health practice in the UK through independent regulation, by:

    • publishing a register of competent Specialists in Public Health
    • ensuring through periodic revalidation that Specialists in Public Health keep up to date and maintain competence
    • dealing with registered specialists who fail to meet the necessary standards

    Registration will be voluntary for the moment, but it is envisaged that it may become a statutory register in due course. Registration is designed to assure the public and employers that multi-disciplinary Specialists in Public Health are appropriately qualified and competent. It is expected, for example, that NHS bodies will normally employ as Specialists in Public Health (after the transitional period of achieving registration) only those who are on the Voluntary Register.

    The Register will be open to all four UK countries. Representatives from all four have participated fully in the development process.

  3. Who will the Register be for?

    The Register will provide Specialists in Public Health from a variety of backgrounds, usually other than medicine, who have not in the past found an appropriate regulatory organisation, with their own body with which to register. They will have a common core of knowledge, skills and experience. They will operate at a strategic or senior management level, usually at Board level or with access to the Board. Specialists must be competent in all of the ten key areas of public health, i.e.:

    • Surveillance and assessment of the population's health and well-being
    • Promoting and protecting the population's health and well-being
    • Developing quality and risk management within an evaluative culture
    • Collaborative working for health
    • Developing health programmes and services, and reducing inequalities
    • Policy and strategy development and implementation
    • Working with and for communities
    • Strategic leadership for health
    • Research and development
    • Ethically managing self, people and resources

    The Register will not, at this stage, be for practitioners who do not work at a strategic or senior management level. A separate project is looking at the development of competencies for this group.

    The Register will also not, at this stage, be for those who specialise in particular areas, and are not competent in all ten key areas of public health practice. Development work for this group is currently underway and it is planned that registration arrangements, as appropriate, will be in place during 2004.

  4. Can I be on more than one register?

    Yes. Obviously, registration with the UK Voluntary Register for Specialists in Public Health will not replace your existing professional registration if you wish to continue practising in that profession, for example nursing.

    Additionally, in due course, it is possible that reciprocal recognition will be achieved with other regulators of professions with an interest in public health, which would enable linked registration for individual specialists.

  5. What will the benefits of the UK Voluntary Register be for me?

    There is a demand from both employees and employers for standards that define the core of specialist practice in public health and inform the development of appropriate knowledge and skills. The Voluntary Register will provide equivalence at specialist level with consultants in public health medicine who are included on the Specialist Register held by the General Medical Council.

    Registration can be interpreted as a declaration of confidence by the regulator, in this case the Voluntary Register, in the registrant's competence to practise in their professional area of expertise. Although the primary purpose of registration is to protect the public, the registrant may receive indirect benefits concerning access to employment and improved inter-professional relationships.

  6. What will I get for my registration fee?

    Like other regulatory bodies, the Voluntary Register will make a charge for registration. All four UK Departments of Health have provided start-up funding - a powerful indicator of Government support - but the Register must become self-financing. Independence of Government is essential to effective professional regulation.

    Fees are comparable with other regulatory bodies and once you have satisfactorily completed the assessment process, your fee will place you on the Voluntary Register. You will be issued with your registration certificate, valid for five years. The Voluntary Register will use your fee to monitor standards of practice and conduct in order to protect the public. Board and committee members and assessors will only be paid their expenses: your fee will be kept to the minimum necessary to support the administration of the Register.

    It is the responsibility of each registrant to pay their initial registration fee and the annual renewals thereafter.

  7. What will I need to do to register?

    There are two routes to the register:

    • via training schemes and examination,

      The normal route for accreditation is to join one of the regionally-based public health training schemes (or national schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), pass Part 1 and Part 2 of the Faculty of Public Health membership examinations and successfully complete the RITA (Record of In Training and Assessment) process after occupying approved training posts. The Voluntary Register will accept applications from the outset from individuals who have successfully completed a training scheme.

    • via portfolio assessment

      A transitional route for registration by portfolio assessment will run, in parallel with the normal route.

      Entry via portfolio assessment will run, in the first instance, for three years, from May 2003. The Joint Board will review this after 18 months. It is anticipated that after 3 years there will continue to be some route to the register, other than by examination.

    The document, Portfolio Assessment Framework (reproduced on this web site and enclosed in the application pack) provides guidance on portfolio submissions. For general registration, applicants will be expected to meet competency levels in all ten key areas of public health specialist practice.

    • Registration is valid for five years, provided that the annual fee is paid. Registrants will be reminded annually about the importance of maintaining their Continuing Professional Development.

    • Membership of the Faculty of Public Health by exemption will be offered to those admitted to the Voluntary Register, if the membership examination has not otherwise been passed.

    • As part of the process of registration, Certificates of Good Standing will be required from other regulatory bodies where appropriate. The Joint Board will be taking advice on whether applicants should also be checked with the Criminal Records Bureau and whether past employers should be contacted concerning any disciplinary/suspension issues.

    As well as information about your competence to practise, you will need to sign a declaration concerning your willingness to adhere to the general professional expectations contained in 'Good Public Health Practice' (which is in the application pack).

    Directors of Public Health of Primary Care Trusts in England will be offered provisional registration, to ensure public protection because of the responsibilities of such posts. They will be required to complete successfully registration through assessment by portfolio or the FPH route within two years to maintain their registration.

  8. Who will decide who is eligible to register?

    The Voluntary Register is governed by the Joint Board.. It comprises an independent chair, two nominees from each of the three bodies on the Tripartite Group (see Q2), and representation from other regulatory bodies with an interest in public health, and observers from each of the four UK Health Departments. The Joint Board overseas the Education and Training Committee, the Fitness to Practise Committee and the Registration Panel. Membership of the Board and Committees will be reviewed after the first year of operation.

    The first phase of assessors have been appointed and trained; they will work in teams of three, consisting of a specialist from a non medical background, a specialist from a medical background, and an independent assessor, who will chair the team. assessors will form the Registration Panel, which will be chaired by one of the Joint Board members who will not be a member of any assessment team.

    Our professional assessors will be familiar with the portfolio framework, have an overview of the public health development process, and have received detailed training.

    Everything possible will be done to ensure the integrity of the assessment process and the fair and impartial consideration of applications. The Register Administrator will be responsible for a number of checks to eliminate possible conflicts of interest.

    To ensure robust decision-making, each application via portfolio assessment will, in the first phase of the Register, be reviewed by two assessment teams independently. Recommendations from each assessment team will be reviewed and approved by the full Registration Panel. The Panel will be accountable to the Joint Board for a rigorous quality assurance process to ensure that assessment by portfolio is fair.

  9. How many opportunities will I have to register?

    Applicants will be given up to two opportunities to be assessed via the portfolio route within 18 months. (An individual applying in May 2006 would therefore have 18 months to make a second attempt.) In the event of failure at the first attempt, written feedback will be given to the applicant on areas in which s/he is not yet considered competent. In the event of failure at the second attempt, the individual may use the alternative route of Faculty of Public Health examination plus accredited, supervised training experience.

  10. Will I be able to appeal if I am refused registration?

    Yes. An assessment team which has not considered the application at any stage will hear the appeal, augmented by an independent lay person and specialist expertise if necessary.

  11. How will I maintain my registration?

    You will be required to pay the annual retention fee to remain on the Register. Registration will be for five years. Before the end of the five year period, the Joint Board will require to be satisfied that you remain fit to practise. Revalidation procedures will be built on appraisal and a programme of Continuing Professional Development based on 'Good Public Health Practice.'

  12. Could a member of the public complain and have me struck off the Register?

    Regulation is about defining, sustaining and raising standards. 'Good Public Health Practice' describes the general professional expectations of Specialists in Public Health. The Joint Board may occasionally receive information suggesting someone might be unfit to stay registered because of their professional conduct, their performance or their state of health. The Joint Board will deal firmly and fairly with these cases. It will consider every complaint thoroughly and take action when justified. This could lead to advice, counselling or retraining, a reprimand or, if necessary, suspension from the Register or being struck off.

    The Joint Board will have a Fitness to Practise Committee, whose members will play no part in the other business of the Voluntary Register.

    'Good Public Health Practice' sets out what to do if you have concerns about the conduct or performance of a colleague.

  13. How will I register if I have trained and qualified outside the United Kingdom?

    You would contact the Register Administrator for advice in the first instance. Arrangements will be made to ensure that Specialists who have trained overseas and who can demonstrate competence in the ten key areas of public health practice are able to register.

  14. What can I do to prepare, and what support will be available to give advice on making an application?

    Make sure you have studied, and are comfortable with, 'Good Public Health Practice', enclosed in the application pack.

    If you intend to apply through the portfolio assessment route, complete the self-assessment checklist included in the documentation on the Portfolio Assessment Framework, obtainable from this website. This will give you an initial guide to your competence and any problem areas.

    In England, a 'virtual' Professional Development Needs Assessment Centre, funded by the Department of Health, has been set up to support all potential applicants in their preparation for registration. The Centre is being managed by the Public Health Resource Unit in Oxford and will act independently from the panel assessing Register applications.

    Support and advice is available locally through the Faculty of Public Health Regional Specialist Advisors, and Faculty Advisers. Details of these are available from the Faculty of Public health web site (www.fph.org.uk). Regional Leads for Top Up Training are also now in place and a full list is available here.

    Appropriate arrangements will be made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in the first instance please contact register@riph.org.uk, who will be able to give you a contact name.

  15. How long will my application take?

    It is envisaged that a straightforward application will take 16 weeks from the first assessment to ratification of the decision by the Board. This time will be lengthened if it is deemed necessary for the applicant to be interviewed, for example, or if other queries arise.

  16. What is the fee?

    The current fee is 110 for the initial assessment, and 200 for the registration fee.

    September 2003

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