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Public protection: the systems of statutory regulation and Accredited Registers

In her guest Blog, Margaret Coats looks at the two systems of public protection. Margaret has experience of working in both of these: in her current position as Chief Executive of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council and in her previous role as Chief Executive of the General Chiropractic Council.

I’ve had the unusual opportunity to work with the Professional Standards Authority since its inception in 2003 as the then Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals (CHRP). At that time, I was a member of the working group consulted on the development of the common standards against which the performance of each of the nine UK healthcare statutory regulators is judged. With its change of name in 2012 to the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, its remit was extended to include the establishment of the system of Accredited Registers. Again, I was involved in the development of the common standards to be met by organisations who hold Accredited Registers of healthcare practitioners who are not regulated by law.

The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was established in 2008 with government support as the voluntary regulator of a wide range of complementary healthcare practitioners. Since 2013 we have been the holder of an Accredited Register and are one of 25 organisations currently accredited by Professional Standards Authority.

Parallel systems

Effectively we now have parallel systems for protecting members of the public who access healthcare services, through either public or private funding, and it is essential that they become aware of both systems, understand the differences and connections between them and can have confidence in them. 

The critical difference between the two systems is that, unlike statutory regulation, there is no law that says anyone must register with organisations (like CNHC) that hold a Professional Standards Authority Accredited Register. However, it’s in the public interest for the two systems to connect when appropriate. I’d like to highlight three examples of this:

  1. The General Medical Council has issued clear guidance that doctors can refer patients to practitioners on Accredited Registers. 
  2. Some doctors, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists and pharmacists who are also qualified to practise complementary therapies, have chosen to register with CNHC in addition to complying with the legal requirement to register with the relevant statutory regulator. 
  3. A few months ago the Professional Standards Authority and the Royal Society for Public Health produced their joint report Untapped Resources - Accredited Registers in the Wider Workforce, in which they identified very clearly the potential for practitioners on Accredited Registers to play a much bigger role in improving public health in the UK and reducing the burden on an overstretched NHS. It noted that: ‘Practitioners registered with CNHC support public health by encouraging their clients to make a range of lifestyle changes. These include improvements to diet and nutrition, support with giving up smoking and losing weight, support with reducing stress, improving sleep, managing pain and other symptoms, as well as overall enhancements to wellbeing. All CNHC registrants are committed to enhancing the UK public’s health and wellbeing.’

A key recommendation in the report is that Accredited Register practitioners should be able to refer directly to NHS healthcare professionals. By providing this referral pathway, patients would no longer be forced to make time-consuming GP visits just to secure the referral to the NHS funded healthcare that they need.

The public need to know about the Accredited Registers programme

Raising public awareness is a drip, drip, drip process that requires dogged determination and investment in the widest range of media and public events. CNHC spends a significant amount of its financial and human resources in reaching out to the public. We want them to know that government recommends that people use only an Accredited Register when consulting a health practitioner who is not regulated by law.

We also want them to know they can have confidence that the rigour of the Professional Standards Authority in scrutinising the performance of the statutory healthcare regulators is matched by the rigour of its process for checking that organisations who wish to hold Accredited Registers meet all of its detailed standards.

Related material

Read the full report Untapped Resources - Accredited Registers in the Wider Workforce or see a summary of the findings in this infographic.

Always use our Check-a-Practitioner tool to make sure that you choose a practitioner who is regulated or on an Accredited Register.

Watch our short video to find out more about Accredited Registers and the benefits of using practitioners on them.

Watch our AR video

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Please note the views expressed in these blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily reflect those of the Professional Standards Authority.