Speech and language therapy regulation
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) keeps a register of health professionals who meet its standards for their training, professional skills, behaviour and health. It registers over 180,000 professionals from 13 professions.
Registration is a legal requirement for all practising SLTs, who must adhere to the HCPC standards. The RCSLT provides guidance and resources to support members to meet these standards.
The HCPC also:
- maintains and publishes a register of registrants
- approves UK courses that allow graduates to apply for registration
- sets standards, in particular those expected of registrants and prospective registrants, for example, the standards of conduct, performance and ethics
- operates a fitness to practise process.
Fitness to practise
The HCPC ensures that allied health professionals have an initial fitness to practise by:
- checking the qualifications of those who apply for registration
- vetting the qualifications of international SLTs who want to work in the UK
- dealing with complaints against therapists, including fitness to practise issues
- ensuring that the UK courses leading to the speech and language qualification are appropriate
Registering with the HCPC
Individuals who call themselves a ‘speech and language therapist’ must be registered with the regulator.
Individuals who call themselves a communication therapist, speech practitioner and others are not regulated. They might not have appropriate training.
- set standards for the professionals they regulate
- publish and maintain a register of the health and care professionals who meet these standards
- monitor and approve education and training programmes so that when someone successfully completes a programme they are eligible to apply to the register
- act if there are serious concerns about an individual on their register
All HCPC registrants are required to renew their registration every two years. They must also adhere to the HCPC CPD standards.
HCPC joining fees are tax deductible for UK taxpayers. Check the HCPC website for details.
Set up your annual registration fee by direct debit as late payment incurs a penalty.
Registrants can’t work in the NHS during any period they are not on the register.
SLTs who qualify internationally can register with the HCPC, providing their qualifications are the equivalent of those of a UK-registered SLT.
Speech and language therapists always aim to provide the best service possible to their clients. However, you may have cause to complain about the service you have received.
The RCSLT cannot comment on individual cases or provide specific advice to members of the public who are dissatisfied with speech and language therapy services they have received.
On this page you will find answers to some common questions about how to make a complaint about a service.
Making a complaint to a local service
Nearly all health, education and social services bodies (eg primary care trusts (PCTs), hospitals, local authorities, schools, voluntary organisations) have local complaints policies and procedures. They can explain what to do if you want to make a complaint.
If you want to make a complaint, your first step should be to submit a complaint in accordance with these procedures. Most complaints can be successfully resolved at a local level.
The best way to find out is to ask. However, the following points may be useful.
- NHS bodies have established in-house complaints procedures which should be followed as a first step towards resolving your complaint.
- The hospital or health service may offer to bring in conciliation services to help resolve the complaint.
- If your complaint is still not resolved to your satisfaction, you can complain to the Health Service Ombudsman (call: 0345 015 4033).
- In some cases, patients may wish to pursue legal action. Action Against Medical Accidents can put you in touch with a solicitor with medical negligence expertise. Call on 020 8686 8333.
More details about NHS complaints procedures:
- How to complain to the NHS
- NHS Choices information service
- NHS Scotland
- Health of Wales information service
- Health and social care in Northern Ireland
- NHS patient advice and liaison services
Services provided by other public sector organisations
Some services may be provided by other public sector providers, eg local authorities and/or schools.
In such cases, you should ask for the local complaints procedure. Follow it carefully if you want to make a complaint.
If you are not happy with the outcome of the complaint, ask for information about the appeals process. There may be local services that can offer advice.
Private treatment and services provided by voluntary organisations (charities)
All voluntary organisations, private hospitals and clinics are likely to have a complaints procedure. Ask for a copy of their complaints procedure and follow it carefully if you want to make a complaint.
If your complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction by the independent healthcare provider itself, you can complain to the Care Quality Commission (call: 03000 616 161).
Making a complaint about an individual SLT
If your complaint relates to an individual speech and language therapist, who works for an NHS body, another public sector or an independent healthcare provider, you can complain to that organisation in the same way as described above.
You can also complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if you are unhappy with the outcome of a local NHS complaints procedure.
Or to the Care Quality Commission with respect to a complaint made to an independent healthcare provider.
If the therapist is a member of the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP), you can raise a concern with this organisation.
Before it is logged as a formal complaint, an initial concern against an ASLTIP member can often be resolved by prompt, thorough, local and informal conciliation.
Members of the ASLTIP executive are willing to act as intermediaries (as would an NHS manager in the public sector) to help resolve concerns. As a first step, a complainant approaching ASLTIP with an initial concern will be offered this conciliation facility.
If conciliation fails, or if either party is unwilling to attempt conciliation, then the complainant will be advised to submit a formal complaint to the secretary of ASLTIP in writing. Complaints should be made within six months of the incident or the time it was discovered.
Health and Care Professions Council
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the local complaints procedures, or the ASLTIP conciliation complaints/processes, you can refer your complaint to the HCPC. This is the regulatory body for speech and language therapists.
The RCSLT does not regulate speech and language therapists. It is unable to assist you with any complaint brought against an individual speech and language therapist.
This information does not constitute legal advice. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific advice on the particular circumstances of a case.