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Protection of title
Misuse of titles
Each of the professions we regulate has one or more ‘designated title’ which is protected by law. Anyone who uses one of these titles must be on our Register. A person who is not registered and who misuses a designated title is breaking the law and may be prosecuted.
Under Article 39(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, it is a criminal offence for a person with intent to deceive (whether clearly or by implication) to:
- claim that they are on the HCPC Register;
- use a designated title protected by the Order to which they are not entitled; or
- claim falsely that they have qualifications in a profession regulated by us.
The words ‘by implication’ mean that an offence may be committed even if the designated title is not used directly (for example, if an unregistered person described the service they provide as ‘chiropody’ or ‘physiotherapy’).
Assistants, students and trainees
A person is unlikely to commit an offence if they use a designated title with a prefix which clearly indicates that they are not fully qualified, such as ‘trainee’ or ‘student’, or a prefix which clearly indicates they do not treat people, such as ‘animal’, ‘equine’ or ‘veterinary’. By using prefixes like this there is no intention to deceive.
Other uses of titles
It is not an offence for an unregistered person to own or operate a business that provides services which are performed by HCPC registered practitioners, such as a podiatry or physiotherapy clinic, provided those services are provided by HCPC registrants.
A person does not commit an offence if, without their knowledge or agreement, a third party describes them using a designated title. For example, a newspaper article or a website link may incorrectly identify the person as a registered professional without any intention to deceive on the part of that person.
A third party who makes false claims about another person’s title would be committing an offence if they knew the information was incorrect and did so with the intention to deceive.
What we do
We aim to make sure the law is kept to and that members of the public are protected from being misled into thinking a person is a registered professional when they are not. When we receive information that a designated title might be being misused, we contact the person or third party concerned (or both), explain the law and tell them that they should not misuse the title. If there is evidence to show that they are committing an offence, we may also send a ‘cease and desist’ notice, which sets out what action we may take if the person or third party continues to commit the offence.
In most cases, the person or third party is unaware of the law, or has simply made a mistake. We appreciate this and if they stop (‘cease and desist’) misusing the title, we will take no further action.
However, if a person or third party does not respond to us or continues to commit an offence, they may be prosecuted, which could lead to a criminal record and a substantial fine.
How to make a complaint
If you want to make a complaint about the misuse of titles this must be done in writing. We will need evidence to show that an offence is being committed and this might be a brochure, leaflet or advertisement, a business card, invoice or letterhead or a directory entry or website. We will usually require a name and a contact details for the person. You should include all relevant information and evidence with your complaint. Please send it to:
Fitness to Practise Department
Health and Care Professions Council
184 Kennington Park Road
If you need any more information, please contact our Fitness to Practise Department.
Phone: 020 7840 9814
Fax: 020 7582 4874
Factsheet - Protecting titlesAdobe PDF Document58kb