The accredited registers (AR) workforce, currently nearing 80,000 nationwide, comprises a wide variety of healthcare practices with the potential to make a significant contribution to promoting and protecting the public’s health.

The public health challenges facing the UK today are deep-seated and varied, and if we are to continue to make progress on priorities such as obesity and smoking, we must embrace all opportunities to improve and protect the public’s health, embedding healthy lifestyles within communities. In Rethinking the Public Health Workforce, RSPH described the contribution that wider health and care professionals can make to tackling these public health challenges.

The Untapped Resources report builds on this by recognising the 80,000 practitioners on accredited registers who can play an integral role in this wider public health workforce, thanks to the thousands of interactions they have with members of the public every day.

This workforce includes a wide range of different healthcare practitioners, including nutritional therapists, play therapists, sports rehabilitators, counsellors and psychotherapists, foot health practitioners and acupuncturists.

In order to better understand the role of the accredited registers workforce RSPH, together with the Professional Standards Authority, conducted a national survey of over 4,500 practitioners to uncover the ways that AR occupations are already supporting the public’s health, and explore the factors that may be hampering their further utilisation.

Key findings

  • Although the vast majority of the AR workforce (89%) consider their job role to include ‘promoting the public’s health’, three quarters of them feel under-utilised in doing so.
  • AR practitioners typically build trusted long-term relationships with their patients and so are naturally well placed to have healthy conversations: many already provide support on mental wellbeing (64%), signposting to healthier lifestyle services (36%), and advice on physical activity (29%).
  • The main barriers identified to contributing further included difficulty in staying up to date with the range of local services for effective signposting, concerns that conversations could make patients feel uncomfortable, and the relative inaccessibility of the workforce to the public.

Key recommendations

  • Public health teams to create and regularly update a list of services bringing all local signposting information together, and disseminate this to AR practitioners.
  • AR practitioners to have authority to make direct NHS referrals, in appropriate cases, thereby reducing the administrative burden on GP surgeries.
  • Accredited registers to consider introducing a standardised health assessment tool to be used with new patients.

 

The findings within Untapped Resources build on and resonate with many of our previous reports looking at the wider workforce, including Rethinking the Public Health Workforce, Healthy Conversations and the Allied Health Professionals, Everyday Interactions, and Building Capacity (which looked at the role of community pharmacy).