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Professional Standards Authority calls on the Government to make sure reforms protect the public

The Professional Standards Authority has today published Let’s get it right for public protection, its first look at Government proposals to reform professional regulation. The report calls on the Government to make some simple changes to its reform plans to better protect the public.

The Authority welcomes the consultation and many of the proposals in it. This includes a new system for dealing with concerns about professionals without a public hearing, and by agreement between the professional and the regulator.

However, the Government's plan misses out a vital safety net by not including a fully independent review of any potentially unsafe decisions about health professionals' fitness to practise. Instead, the burden may fall to patients and service users to do this themselves and ask the regulator to review its own decisions. 

Our short report explains how to remedy this and lays out a framework to assess the success or failure of Government proposals. This includes the need for reforms to improve the overall consistency and coherence of the regulatory system to support a modern, multi-disciplinary workforce.

Commenting on the new report, Chief Executive Alan Clamp said:

“The Authority has welcomed these reforms which draw on our own proposals for change.

“However, we are worried about aspects of the reforms which could reduce public protection. Under the Government proposals, the burden for challenging unsafe decisions about professionals would be largely shifted onto patients and service users instead of an independent body like the Authority.

“Professional regulation needs modernisation – but not at the expense of public protection.

“The Secretary of State has referred to patient safety as the ‘golden thread’ running through everything in the health sector. We call on the Government to work with us to address these concerns and make sure that these reforms are a success for patients, professionals and the wider health service.”

ENDS

Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care

 Contact: media@professionalstandards.org.uk


Notes to the Editor

  1. The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care oversees 10 statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK.
  2. We assess their performance and report to Parliament. We also conduct audits and investigations and can appeal fitness to practise cases to the courts if we consider that sanctions are insufficient to protect the public and it is in the public interest.
  3. We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.
  4. We share good practice and knowledge, conduct research and introduce new ideas to our sector. We monitor policy developments in the UK and internationally and provide advice on issues relating to professional standards in health and social care.
  5. We do this to promote the health, safety and wellbeing of users of health and social care services and the public. We are an independent body, accountable to the UK Parliament.
  6. Our values are – integrity, transparency, respect, fairness and teamwork – and we strive to ensure that they are at the core of our work.
  7. More information about our work and the approach we take is available at www.professionalstandards.org.uk

Background to Reform of professional regulation

The Department of Health and Social Care has now published its public consultation on reforms to the legislation of the health professional regulators. Although, this will cover changes to all regulatory functions, key proposals include: 

  • Introducing a new fitness to practise (FtP) model across across the health professional regulators allowing regulators to dispose of cases without a public hearing in agreement with the registrant.
  • Making changes to regulator governance including implementing consistent duties of cooperation, transparency and proportionality across the regulators, introducing new powers around data sharing and replacing regulator Councils with smaller unitary Boards .
  • Providing regulators with powers to set and change their own operating procedures through rules.

The consultation also includes proposals to bring Physician Associates and Anaesthesia Associates into statutory regulation (to be regulated by the General Medical Council) and to make changes to the international registration processes operated by the General Dental Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Currently the majority of concerns about professionals are dealt with via a public hearing. The Professional Standards Authority currently has powers to appeal any decisions about professionals that are insufficient to protect the public. Under Government proposals these powers would not apply to any decisions made in private via the proposed new 'accepted outcomes' model.

The Authority's power fulfil an important role ensuring that unsafe practitioners are given the correct sanctions as well as improving the overall quality of decision-making and ensuring the transparency of the system. Find out more about our power to appeal and its wider benefits