The Professional Standards Authority (the Authority) has called for the current proposals for reform of professional regulation to get the attention they deserve alongside the Health and Care Bill announced in this week’s Queen’s Speech.
The Health and Care Bill is likely to include powers for the Secretary of State to merge or abolish any of the health professional regulators and to move different professional groups in or out of statutory regulation.
There are, however, already major changes planned for health professional regulation which the Government is currently consulting on, which will not be part of the Bill. The policy direction for these changes will be set following the end of the public consultation on 16 June.
Proposals include a brand-new system for dealing with concerns about health professionals outside of public panel hearings (in cases where the registrant agrees with the proposed outcome) and wide-ranging powers for regulators to change their own operating procedures through rules.
The Professional Standards Authority has published First look which outlines our initial views on the proposed reforms.
Professional Standards Authority Chief Executive Alan Clamp said:
‘The Authority notes the announcement of a Health and Care Bill in this week’s Queen’s Speech. We support simplification of the regulatory system and a risk-based approach to deciding which professional groups are regulated by law. We will be providing further briefings on these issues during the passage of the Bill.’
‘However, we recommend that stakeholders also focus on the open consultation on changes for the health professional regulators. These may actually result in greater changes for professional regulation than will be brought about by the Bill.’
‘We support many of the proposals in the current consultation, but it will be important that any greater flexibility for regulators is accompanied by appropriate checks and balances.’
‘This is an important opportunity to shape the future of professional regulation. With less than five weeks left of the consultation we urge all interested parties to give it their full attention in the interests of patients and the wider public.’
Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care
Notes to the Editor
- The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care oversees 10 statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK.
- 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.
We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.
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.
- 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.
- Our values are – integrity, transparency, respect, fairness and teamwork – and we strive to ensure that they are at the core of our work.
- More information about our work and the approach we take is available at www.professionalstandards.org.uk
Background – reform of professional regulation
The Health and Care White Paper published in February 2021 included proposals to give the Secretary of State powers to merge or abolish the health professional regulators and to move professional groups in or out of statutory regulation. Plans for a Health and Care Bill were announced in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care is currently consulting on wide ranging reforms to the legislation of the health professional regulators with the intention to take forward changes to each of the regulators in turn using secondary legislation later this year. The consultation is open until 16 June 2021. Although these reforms will cover changes to all the regulators main functions, key proposals include:
- Introducing a new fitness to practise (FtP) process across the health professional regulators allowing regulators to deal with concerns about professionals 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
- Giving all of the regulators simplified, consistent legislation and providing them with powers to set and change their own operating procedures through rules
- The consultation also includes proposals to bring Physician Associates (PAs) and Anaesthesia Associates (AAs) 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.
You can read more about our views on the reforms here