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Research and policy update

Regulation rethought and right-touch assurance

Two new policy publications put forward our proposals for radical reform and a methodology for assessing risk

In October the standards and policy team published two documents: Regulation rethought and Right-touch assurance. In Regulation rethought we propose a set of radical reforms to the professional regulators we oversee, building on our earlier work in Rethinking regulation.


We want to make regulation more accessible to the public, and make it easier for them to engage with regulators when they need to. Under the proposals, all health professionals would work to a common set of standards. There would be a single register of health professionals, including current registrants of the nine regulators we oversee. 

It would also include those people in occupations currently on accredited registers, and groups working in other roles in healthcare as the need arose. We would like to see a licensing system established for health professionals undertaking the riskiest kinds of work, somewhat like the driving licence system with different licences for different areas of practice.

We would also like to see the process for raising concerns with a regulator become less confrontational for all concerned, and more based on an inquiry into the circumstances in which things may have gone wrong. 

Overall we would like to see a change of approach meaning that regulators are more focused on preventing things going wrong in the first place, using the knowledge and insight they have from their experience of investigating problems. We are looking forward to discussing our proposals further with interested people. You can read all our proposals in full in Regulation rethought which is published on our website.

At the same time we also published Right-touch assurance: a methodology for assessing and assuring occupational risk of harm. This sets out a method for advising on the best way to provide assurance to the public – whether to regulate, or whether it would be more appropriate to use one of the other options available such as a register accredited by the Authority. 

The process has two stages. The first looks at the risks of harm to patients that arise from the practice of a profession, taking into account the vulnerability of patients, the working environment, and the hazards involved in treatments. The second stage considers the effects of external factors such as whether regulating would restrict innovation. The evidence that is gathered about both kinds of risk is considered by a panel which makes a recommendation on the best option. Find out more details on our website.

Consultation responses

We have just published our responses to several consultations, mainly from the regulators but also the European Commission's consultation on the regulation of professions: Member States' National Action Plans and proportionality in regulation and the Call for evidence by the House of Lords Committee on the long-term sustainability of the NHS. The other consultations were:

  • GMC consultation on changes to the medical register
  • GOC consultation on draft supplementary guidance on the duty of candour
  • GOsC consultations on Draft Guidance for Osteopathic Students and Draft Guidance for Osteopathic Educational Institutions
  • HCPC consultation on exemptions
  • HCPC consultation on revised guidance for students.

All the responses have now been published on our website.