What ACPs do

Advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) work beyond the standard scope of practice. They have additional qualifications and specialised knowledge in areas including dysphagia, neurological conditions or working with specific groups such as children with autism or adults with dementia.

ACPs may move away from traditional speech and language therapy roles and work in varying fields such as nutrition or justice. ACPs also have advancing clinical skills such as the ability to conduct more complex assessments and interventions, provide consultation and training to other professionals, and engage in clinical research to further advance the field.

ACPs frequently hold leadership roles within their organisation, contributing towards the development of policies and standards of practice whilst providing guidance to less experienced clinicians.

To demonstrate how these roles may look or impact services, RCSLT has developed some case studies with members who have completed advancing practice (AP) training.

Demonstrating proficiency

To become an ACP in speech and language therapy, a therapist needs to demonstrate a high level of knowledge, skill, and expertise in the field. This may include:

  • Clinical expertise: The therapist should have a deep understanding of the assessment and treatment of a wide range of communication disorders across the lifespan. This may include knowledge and experience in working with clients with complex needs or comorbidities.
  • Facilitated learning: The therapist should demonstrate a commitment to ethical practice, continuing professional development, and working collaboratively with other healthcare professionals.
  • Leadership: The therapist should have the ability to lead and manage teams, as well as mentor and supervise less experienced therapists.
  • Evidence, research and development: The therapist should have the ability to critically evaluate research and apply evidence-based practice in their clinical work. The therapist should demonstrate an understanding of the wider health and social care landscape and be able to advocate for their clients’ needs. They should also be able to contribute to service development and improvement initiatives.

Demonstrating proficiency in these areas can be achieved through a combination of formal education, clinical experience, continuing professional development, and reflective practice. It may also involve seeking out opportunities for specialised training or certification in areas such as swallowing disorders, neurogenic communication disorders, or augmentative and alternative communication.

Determining readiness for advancing practice

This table helps you determine your readiness to become an ACP. Demonstrating this alone does not give you a role.

Statement suggesting readiness for advancing practice

Examples of evidence

I understand the necessary four pillars of advancing practice and how these are an integral part of the advancing practice role.
I understand the core capabilities of advancing practice as articulated in the multi-professional framework for advancing clinical practice.
I have an agreed scope of practice that details the requirements and limitations of my role Scope of practice, job description
I meet the higher education institutions (HEI) academic requirements for enrolling on an advancing practice MSc programme. HEI programme handbooks and website
I know how often I am expected to attend lectures and study days at the university and have agreed protected time with my manager to join these. HEI programme handbooks and website
I know how much additional study time is recommended by my programme and have agreed a plan with my manager to enable this. HEI programme handbooks
A co-ordinating education supervisor has been identified for me before I commence my training and they have completed the advancing practice supervisor’s readiness checklist. Workplace supervision for advanced clinical practice (PDF)
I have associate supervisors who can support and assess me across all four pillars of advancing practice. Workplace supervision for advanced clinical practice (PDF)
I understand the importance of engaging in regular supervision and the assessment of capability to ensure patient and practitioner safety
I have an agreed job plan that covers all four pillars of practice, allows for a minimum of one hour of supervision per week and has additional independent study time agreed. Job plan
I understand I should complete a learning needs analysis, a personal development plan and a learning contract with my co-ordinating education supervisor to guide and support my development.
I understand I must work in partnership with my employer, advancing practice lead, HEI and the Regional Faculty for Advancing Practice to proactively identify any supervision issues, learning environment needs or difficulties in achieving learning objectives that may affect my progression to try to find a resolution. HEE commitment statement
I know who the advancing practice lead for the organisation is and how to access support should difficulties arise. Organisation policy

HCPC

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) ran a consultation on its standards of education and training for ACP and consultant frameworks in 2020. It subsequently commissioned an Advanced Practice Research Project, which published a report in January 2021 (PDF).

HCPC organised professional body workshops during February and March 2021 to explore whether advancing practice regulation could be required. Further workshops and employer research continued throughout spring 2021 and HCPC reviewed this evidence to decide if additional regulation was warranted.

While the HCPC recognised there was significant ask for regulation, there was also some feeling that regulation was not needed. Therefore, at this stage, HCPC have decided not to regulate the space and instead stated they would begin scoping for a definition of advancing practice.

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