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What are the three things the government needs to get right when it reforms health professional regulation?

We have published Three things to get right for public protection setting out the main things the Government needs to change to ensure their reforms to health professional regulation protect patients and the public.

Whilst we support many of the proposals, we do not support everything. Key changes that we think are needed to make the reforms a success include:

  1. Apply the public protection safety net we have now to all final fitness to practise decisions, and not just those that are made by panels
  2. Keep the powers regulators have now to handle health concerns about a professional if there is a risk to the public
  3. Keep some independent checks and balances to make sure that the way regulation works is safe and consistent across professions where it needs to be.

These changes will not form part of the upcoming Health and Care Bill – they are part of a separate consultation – closing at 12.15 am on 16 June 2021. The proposed reforms will be taken forward for each regulator in turn, starting with the General Medical Council later in the year, through secondary legislation. The policy direction for these changes will therefore be determined by the outcome of this public consultation.

Professional Standards Authority Chief Executive Alan Clamp said:

“This consultation proposes major reforms to the powers and governance of the health professional regulators. Three areas concern us, but we have proposed some simple solutions.

“We encourage others to respond to this consultation too. This is a rare chance to shape the future of health professional regulation and ensure that it protects the public.”

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
  8.  The Department of Health and Social Care consultation on reforms to the legislation of the health professional regulators is open until 16 June 2021 - https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/regulating-healthcare-professionals-protecting-the-public. Although this will cover changes to all the regulatory functions, key proposals include:
  • Introducing a new fitness to practise (FtP) model 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 GMC) and to make changes to the international registration processes operated by the GDC and the NMC.

9. 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.

10. The Authority’s powers 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. You can read more about our appeal powers including case studies on our website here and about our views on the reforms here.