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Research and policy update

Using key statistics to demonstrate how we contribute to public protection

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Statistics help to qualify and quantify what we do and show our impact. All organisations use statistics – all the time – they are a short-hand way to demonstrate worth and how targets or objectives are being met, but it is also important to remember that behind almost every statistic lies a human story.

We wanted to produce a short report showing how our work contributes to protecting the public. The easiest way to go about this was us to draw upon the statistics we use all the time – in our annual reports, for updates to our Board, and on our website. However, we did not just want to use these statistics – we wanted to take a closer look at the stories that sit behind them. Our statistics tend to involve stories of patients, their families, the health and care professionals subject to regulation, and staff within the regulators trying to deliver effective regulation. Because of the field we work in, these stories are complicated and can be distressing – they can involve, for example, a family losing a loved-one, or a health professional losing their career. We have taken data from the last three years for each of our main areas of work and looked at one of the cases that sit behind these statistics. You can read each of the case studies – or the full report – which sets out our work in context as well as looking at what the future might hold. 

Collaboration and cooperation: recent and upcoming events

In November, we held our annual symposium for senior leaders of the professional regulators and other external stakeholders on the theme of Collaborative regulation. Regulators recognise that they are part of the wider patient safety system and need to work together to create the conditions which support health and care professionals to deliver care effectively; and to protect patients from harm.

In February, we will hold our second joint research and policy seminar. At this event staff from the regulators’ and the Authority’s policy teams meet to discuss their respective plans for research. This time we will be considering the changing nature of relationships between regulator, the regulated and the public. Later that month, we will join with the Welsh government to host a regulatory conference on Regulatory developments and the Welsh context

Arrangements for our academic conference in March are progressing well with another fascinating programme. This year we are combining it with a new seminar on Futurology, looking at the regulatory and ethical challenges posed by novel developments in technology, service delivery and societal change.

We will tell you more about these events in our next newsletter.

‘Data and Technology in Professional Regulation’

artificial intelligence for website

The Authority’s Chief Executive, Alan Clamp, attended this CLEAR (Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation) Conference in early January. Representatives of regulatory bodies and associated organisations from around the world gathered together to discuss the use of data and artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications for professional regulation.

Hannah Maxey from the Indiana University School of Medicine spoke about how we could use the data gathered by regulators more effectively. For example, by better sharing of information (‘gather once, use many times’) to reduce regulatory burdens and facilitate meta-analysis of regulatory information. She also demonstrated the use of such information to inform policy-making and to identify and address workforce issues; something that is currently of keen interest for the NHS.

Ankur Teredesai from the University of Washington talked about the potential impact of machine learning and AI on health. He emphasised that big data means big ethical questions and therefore big responsibility, making numerous references to ‘responsible’ AI (AI that ‘does no harm’) – noting some examples where over-reliance on AI had led to undesirable outcomes. He expressed a preference for the ‘artificial’ in AI to be placed by ‘assistive’ to help the humans in the system do a better job – but not to replace those humans.

The most significant discussions among regulators followed a presentation by Robert Smart, CEO of Vametric in Ottawa who again emphasised the role of AI as ‘machine-learning assisted decision-making’ that helps people but does not replace them. Even in this context there was much debate about who is responsible for AI-based decisions – the programmer, the IT company or the health professional using the AI? Should AI tools be regulated as medical devices?

In addition to the conference on data and technology, which was good background for the Authority’s futurology conference in March, there were committee meetings at CLEAR and Alan represented the Authority on the ‘Executive Leadership for Regulators Committee’, debating plans for sharing good practice, developing leaders in regulators and opportunities to include leadership development as part of future CLEAR conferences.

It was a very productive conference and well worth attending. In the next couple of years, the Authority is planning to explore some of these issues highlighted around AI and information/intelligence-sharing. Like all organisations, we can make better use of the information we hold, and should be thinking about how we can improve our analysis and share any useful findings with regulators and other organisations in health and social care; as well as encouraging others to make better use of their own information. Managed appropriately, big data can lead to big improvements in professional standards and safer care for all.

Read more about the possibilities of AI and how it might impact professional regulation in our most recent blog from Senior Scrutiny Officer, Christopher Pawlucyk.


Woman and man silhouetteFind out more about how our research can contribute to public protection in this short case study about the report we published on health professionals crossing sexual boundaries with their colleagues and whether it can impact on patient safety.