Petition Enact legislation to make 'psychologist' a protected title

Anyone can use the title of 'psychologist'. We believe this undermines public trust and contributes to harm. Nine types of 'psychologist' role are protected (i.e. clinical, health), regulated by HCPC and adhere to strict standards. We want any use of the title 'psychologist' to be protected.

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This situation allows unregulated practitioners to offer 'psychological' services, which we believe poses a risk to the public. There have been reports of unregulated 'psychologists' providing inaccurate ADHD assessments. A senior family court judge, has highlighted the confusion caused by the unregulated use of the title 'psychologist' in family court proceedings. The media also features unqualified 'psychologists' , which we believe risks widespread public harm.

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Government responded

This response was given on 7 May 2024

The Government has no plans to make the professional title “psychologist” a protected title. However, our regulatory reform programme, which is underway, will consider protected titles more broadly.

All healthcare professional regulators have protected titles relating to the professions they regulate. There are currently 64 protected titles across 10 professional health and care regulators. This includes nine protected titles relating to the practitioner psychologist profession, regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The HCPC does not regulate practitioner psychologists according to their job role.

Titles protected by the HCPC include Practitioner psychologist, Registered psychologist, Clinical psychologist, Forensic psychologist, Counselling psychologist, Health psychologist, Educational psychologist, Occupational psychologist, and Sport and exercise psychologist.

A protected title status means it is a criminal offence for someone to practise and use a protected title without being registered with the relevant regulator. Titles can only be protected for statutorily regulated professions.

The HCPC is responsible for ensuring the integrity of its register and takes action where there is evidence of misuse of protected titles. Anyone not registered with the HCPC who uses a designated title may be breaking the law and could be prosecuted.

A number of commonly used professional titles, such as ‘nurse’ or ‘doctor’ are not currently protected, as we recognise that they can be legitimately used outside of a healthcare environment. However, the Government keeps these titles under review and will be considering the titles protected in law as part of its regulatory reform programme.

The Government has committed to reforming the legislative framework for regulated health and care professionals across the UK. This includes providing all regulators with equivalent protection of title and registration offences within their legislation, so that all registered professions have the same level of protection.

The UK Government is clear that the professions protected in law must be the right ones and the level of regulatory oversight must be proportionate to the risks to the public. Bringing a profession into statutory regulation is a lengthy and costly legal process. It is restrictive by its very nature and can inhibit the flexibility of a profession to grow and develop to meet patient needs.

The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) operates an accredited voluntary registers programme, providing a proportionate means of assurance for unregulated professions by setting standards for organisations holding voluntary registers. There are currently 12 accredited registers related to psychotherapy.

Department of Health and Social Care

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