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Regulation - an international perspective

Accredited registers: global appeal

Eureka Cheung has worked for the Hong Kong Government as Principal Assistant Secretary for Health in the Food and Health Bureau, where her portfolio covered policies pertaining to healthcare workforce planning and regulation. Currently on a sabbatical, Eureka is studying public policy at Oxford University. Eureka is working at the Authority on a secondment, researching the feasibility of setting up an accredited registers scheme in Hong Kong for healthcare professions currently not subject to statutory regulation.

Eureka and Christine

Eureka explains how Hong Kong regulates healthcare professionals:

In Hong Kong, we adopt a risk-based approach to determine whether a healthcare profession should be subject to statutory registration. Generally speaking, healthcare practitioners performing invasive or critical procedures are accorded with higher priority for statutory regulation.

There are 13 healthcare professions which are subject to statutory registration, such as doctors, dentists and nurses. For other supplementary healthcare professions which are not statutorily regulated, such as psychologists, dieticians and audiologists, they are covered by voluntary, society-based registration and some general legislation governing medical malpractices. Against the backdrop of an ageing population, we see a need to strengthen regulation of the latter group to ensure that they are adequately equipped to meet the increasing healthcare needs of the population.   

In considering the regulatory model for the wider healthcare workforce, we are mindful that excessive regulation may pose unnecessary barriers to market entry, discourage competition, and have resource implications for society. We believe that statutory regulation is called for only when there is evidence showing that the practice of a healthcare profession has demonstrated an unacceptable level of risk to the public.

Following a survey of international experience in healthcare regulation, we looked to the Authority’s Accredited Registers Scheme as an example which offers a ‘right-touch’ model of assured registration to manage risks associated with unregulated professions for better public protection.

I wish to thank the Authority, and Harry in particular, for the opportunity they have given me to learn first-hand from colleagues and gain their insights in introducing the accredited registers scheme. Having regard to Authority’s experience, while taking into account circumstances unique to Hong Kong, we aim to come up with an adapted scheme for piloting in 2016/17.