No professional register will take you? Just set up one of your own!

One of the arguments against regulation of psychotherapy is that if such titles as “counsellor” or “psychotherapist” are made protected titles, then those who are either struck off or were never registered to begin with will simply use other titles. “Life coach”, for example.

Parallels are sometimes drawn with other professions. Dietitians are regulated, but people get around regulation by calling themselves nutritionists. Likewise podiatrists and chiropodists have protected titles, but some people call themselves “foot health professionals”, and work unregulated. An example of someone using this to get around a striking-off order was shown to me by blog reader Patrick Killeen. It’s a tale that stinks worse than a nasty case of bromodosis.

In 2011, chiropodist/podiatrist Stephen Gardiner was struck off by the Health and Care Professions Council for a string of insurance fraud offences while practising at Yorkshire firm A Foot Above.

Over a period substantially in excess of three years, on eight separate occasions Mr Gardiner submitted fraudulent claims to a medical expenses insurer.  In doing so he altered receipts and forged signatures of other professionals.  The total sum of the fraudulent claims was £938 of which £575 was paid, the balance representing the applicable excess under the insurance policy.  When his claims were initially questioned by the insurance company Mr Gardiner not only failed to acknowledge his wrongdoing, but sought to blame others for the false claims.

Around the time of the striking off, Gardiner told the Derby Telegraph that he would continue to work regardless of the order.

With Mr Gardiner’s removal from the HPC list, this means that he can no longer call himself a chiropodist or podiatrist. Mr Gardiner will, however, continue to practise as a foot-health professional.

A foot-health professional is able to attend to all the common conditions that affect the foot and leg, ranging from routine care of nails, hard skin and corn removal right through to functional problems of the foot.

Darren Bloore, company secretary for A Foot Above, said Mr Gardiner would continue to work for the firm.

A look at the Staff Page for A Foot Above confirms that Gardiner is still working there, where he’s the Director of Clinical Services. Also still there is Darren Bloore, the company secretary mentioned in the Derby Telegraph article. He’s now the Director of Quality Assurance and Compliance. These two really give themselves some grand titles for a small company with only 8 staff.

I’m somewhat concerned that two of the staff are registered podiatrists, though both of them appear to be newly-qualified. I hope they get out quick, as I can’t imagine the HCPC will be happy about them having a stuck-off podiatrist as their clinical director.

Although “foot health professional” is not a protected title, the Professional Standards Authority has awarded Accredited Register status to the Accredited Register of Foot Health Practitioners, which is run by the Alliance of Private Sector Practitioners. I can’t say I’m exactly impressed that the PSA has blurred the boundaries between who is and is not a regulated professional in this way.

Not that it really matters in this instance, because Mr Gardiner isn’t on that accredited register. He’s instead a member of the Society of Foot Care Professionals.

Who are they? A quick company check reveals that the directors of the Society of Foot Care Professionals are, er, Stephen Gardiner, and, um, Darren Bloore.

Residing at the same address as the Society of Foot Care Professionals is the College of Foot Care Professionals, where you can study for diplomas in diabetes management, health promotion or sports medicine, among other topics. Another company check reveals that the college directors are, yes you’ve guessed it, Stephen Gardiner and Darren Bloore. The company check also reveals it was founded in 2011, the same year Gardiner was struck off.

Well, I suppose that’s one thing you can do if no professional register will have you. Set up one of your own.

23 thoughts on “No professional register will take you? Just set up one of your own!

  1. So, in fact, the HCPC offers no protection at all and is a complete waste of time and money? It’s hard to disagree.

    • To a degree, though there’s one thing that particularly concerns me – if he’s been struck off by the HCPC, who is he insured by? I can’t imagine any firm offering indemnity insurance to a struck-off practitioner, which is worrying in terms of protection for the client.

      I did a bit of googling about the similarities/differences between podiatrists and foot health professionals, and found this.

      • That article demonstrates precisly the problem with these professions. It has the distinct smell of bias, in-group self-interest and protectionism against the outsider foot-people and thus undermines the very trust in the ‘true’ path of certification that it is trying to promote.

      • All I can say is, if I need work done on my feet, I’m going to a podiatrist, not a footiologist or whatever they want to call themselves.

      • That is your choice, of course.

    • Hi Phil can I just say as a foot health professional myself ,I have encounted some very poor podiatrists especially NHS one , so please do me a favour and stop slagging us fhps off I have a very successful business and all my clients and very happy with my work considering most of them had experienced terrible experiences with so call podiatrists/chiropodists and just for the record I am insured and registered and take my work very seriously and give very high standards when it comes to my clients so go pick on someone else and stop tarding people with the same brush x

      • Thanks for your reply.

        I’m sure there are bad chiropodists/podiatrists out there, just as there are good and bad practitioners in any profession. But here’s my concern: if a chiropodist/podiatrist commits misconduct, I know who they’re accountable to – the HCPC.

        If a foot health professional commits misconduct, who are they accountable to? Who strikes them off? And who enforces that striking-off?

      • They wouldnt need striking off hopefully if misconduct does accure its up to the client to go for a public liability claim , and thats worse than been struck off any register cos you would struggle to get insurance again ie damaging he\she,s business. Bit worse than been struck off a register dont you think .

      • Although registered myself i do think registers are money making scams and the only thing a register protects is the register why do you think they strike people off not to protect the public but to protect the register !!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • I don’t think the lack of insurance is any kind of deterrent at all. Our research found that one in four counellors/psychotherapists struck off by accreditted registers simply carry on practising, and I know full well that at least some of them have been sued. Obviously I’m not privy to their accounts, but I find it very hard to believe any insurance company would touch them.

        Going back to Stephen Gardiner, the guy in the original post. He’s been struck off as a chiropodist/podiatrist for fraud, so it would take a very “brave” insurer to offer him any cover.

        So, no, I don’t think insurance is a deterrent. I think it’s more likely that there are people out there practising uninsured.

  2. The significance of the Stephen Gardiner case is it demonstrates that the limits of regulation based on Protected Titles are the same as the limits of regulation based on Accredited Registers. Both are voluntary schemes that provide a reliable means of identifying regulated practitioners. Accredited Registers are criticised because their voluntary nature means that even if someone is struck off an Accredited Register they can carry on practicing, but as Gardiner shows exactly the same is true when it comes to Protected Titles.

    The PSA hasn’t “blurred the boundaries between who is and is not a regulated professional” by accrediting a register of foot health professionals, statutory regulation isn’t the only form of effective regulation. The practitioners on the Accredited Register of Foot Health Professionals are just as regulated as practitioners on the HCPC’s register of podiatrists.

    The weakness of Accredited Registers and Protected Titles when it comes to safeguarding is that they both depend on the people commissioning services to know and understand who they cover; this is particularly problematic when it comes to service where people choose their own practitioner. When you’re choosing someone to give you emotional or foot health support you only benefit from the protection of the law if you know how the law works and pick accordingly.

    • While we are sort of somewhere close to the subject, I want to ask why therapists insist on suggesting that they offer a safe space. Why can’t they be straight about the fact that the whole idea of therapy is to get real and realness often hurts like hell? Therapy that feels completely safe might not even be therapy at all.

      • If you’re referring to the title of the website, it’s not a reference to talking about uncomfortable or difficult topics in therapy. It’s a reference to serious sexual abuse cases such as Palace Gate, Ray Holland, Geoff Pick etc.

      • Therapists offer clients a safe place in which to conduct a potentially painful activity.

        You are right that therapy that feels completely safe might not even be therapy at all, but the nature of the risk is important. Therapy that doesn’t feel safe because a client feels that the space is unsafe (due to a controlling therapist or poor confidentiality for example) is even less likely to be therapy.

  3. Just to add, serious abuse is not always physical or sexual. It often is emotional, mental and psychological, especially of the therapist is very narcissistic…. gaslightening etc

    • I totally agree. This happened to me and I am still suffering from the impact. Please see my comment on the other post in WordPress about ‘accredited registers’.

  4. Even without the regulatory aspect, it’s still very possible to ‘set up’ (pluck out of the air?) your own ‘association’ and use this as a marketing tool.
    I know of someone who has done just this. Conveniently, it ‘gives him permission’ to put some letters after his name. Of course they mean nothing, but to an unsuspecting potential client, they may give an impression of competence, knowledge, or qualifications. And it seems there’s nothing (or very little) to stop him.

  5. “If a foot health professional commits misconduct, who are they accountable to? Who strikes them off? And who enforces that striking-off?”

    That depends on who they are registered with, the Professional Standards Authority (a statutory regulator of regulators) regulates two organisations that regulate professionals that work in foot health care: the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Alliance of Private Sector Practitioners.

    Neither body has the power to stop people offering a foot health service.

  6. There are no such things as “protected titles” in the Health Professions Order, Phil – the term is not to be found in the legislation or subsequent amendments or orders. It is a term dreamt up by the HPC and their solicitors, BDB-Law, when the HPC became a statutory regulator in 2003 and is a misleading and redundant term.

    The regulator has deliberately and systematically misled and deceived all its registrants and the professional bodies regarding the use of titles. One does NOT need to be registered with the HCPC to use a “designated title” (correct terminology) providing the individual holds a relevant qualification and they DO NOT claim or infer to be HCPC Registered when they are not.

    Even individuals that have been struck-off for misconduct/lack of competence can lawfully use a designated title – like psychotherapist or podiatrist – providing they make it clear they are no longer registered. This is because of a lacuna in the legislation that the regulator has deliberately concealed since 2003 – the sentence that prefixes the “offences” in section 39.1.of the Order –

    “a person commits an offence, IF, with intent to deceive….”

    If there is NO intent to deceive – i.e. when a qualified unregistered makes it clear they are not registered – then there is no breach of the legislation. The reason the HPC concealed this important aspect of the regulation, was to capture many thousands of health professionals who need not be registered if they should so choose – those in private practice or with employers that do not stipulate HCPC registration as a condition of employment.

    The following is a long read, but is an abridged section of my book “An Intent to Deceive” which is published later this year. The HCPC has perpetrated a deception against the health professions – and many of you will have a claim against them for fraudulent misrepresentation – and in addition, they have knowingly placed the public at risk through their FtP process – where they know that someone they found unfit to practice can still carry on treating the public – not just under another title, like your article suggests, but using the same title as before – providing the above T&C are met.

    Thank you for highlighting this matter.

  7. And you do not need to have HCPC registration – or registration with a voluntary register – to obtain Professional Indemnity Insurance. There are several UK companies that offer policies akin to that offered through the professional bodies – at similar cost.

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