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Viewpoint  – Mark Stobbs

First impressions

Mark StobbsEight weeks in to a new job isn’t a bad time to take stock of my first impressions. The environment is very different from that of the legal sector and I’ve arrived to a new performance review process and a relatively new team structure. I’ve now also met most of my key contacts.

I have been struck by some similarities – there are many different regulators and a belief in ethics and client care, but there are some key differences. Whilst the Legal Services Board concentrated on competition and access to legal services, understandable where there is no National Legal Service, which raised concerns about resolving the tension between competition and professional standards. Here, all the regulators unite in concentrating on professional standards and patient safety.

After eight weeks, I’ve identified the following questions I’d like to explore:

  1. How transparent are we? Does the Authority provide enough guidance as to what meeting our Standards involves? Ought we to be clearer about what we regard as acceptable turnaround times for cases? How do we recognise that the tasks and resources of the different regulators vary significantly? At the very least, the findings of our performance reviews should not come as a surprise to regulators, even if they may disagree with some of them.
  2. How do we spread best practice? We issue ‘learning points’ to the regulators but how useful are they? Are there other ways of encouraging dialogue and discussion, perhaps about what has gone right as well as things that have gone wrong.
  3. How do we ensure that we achieve our aim of right-touch regulation? The new performance review process should move towards that. We’re unlikely to have got it right first time, but it is an important work in progress. I hope I can get some feedback so we can refine it.
  4. Are our processes right for identifying the few but important cases that need to be referred? I have seven people looking at over 3,500 cases per year, so this is crucial.

I’ve been struck by the commitment and expertise of my team and the openness of the discussions that I’ve had with the regulators. There will always be tensions between us: nobody likes having their homework marked and there will always be genuine reasons for disagreement. I hope that I can facilitate a mature debate about those issues so that we can work together on our common goal of patient safety.

Get in touch if you have any thoughts about the points I raise. I would like your feedback.

Mark Stobbs
Director Scrutiny and Quality