Today we publish our response to the Government’s consultation on regulatory reform, Regulating healthcare professionals, protecting the public. The changes proposed in this consultation will not form part of the upcoming Health and Care Bill – they are part of this separate consultation and 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 consultation.
We support many of the proposals in the consultation document, in particular:
- We see advantages in giving the regulators new duties to co-operate with other regulators, and to be transparent and proportionate
- We welcome the opportunity to achieve greater consistency in how registers work and the information made available to the public
- We support the removal of the five-year rule that prevents taking forward complaints where events took place more than five years earlier
- We welcome providing registrants and complainants with a less adversarial alternative to panel hearings, known as accepted outcomes. This will help to reduce the negative impacts on all involved and the money saved could be diverted to other things regulators do to prevent harm.
However, we do not support everything. Key changes that we think are needed to make the reforms a success include:
- Applying the public protection safety net we have now to all final fitness to practise decisions, and not just those that are made by panels
- Keeping the powers regulators have now to handle health concerns about a professional if there is a risk to the public
- Keeping some independent checks and balances to make sure that the way regulation works is safe and consistent across professions where it needs to be.
We encourage anyone with an interest in improving regulation respond to the consultation. The deadline for responding is 23:45 on 16 June 2021.
Read our full response here or a summary of the three key changes we think are needed in this short report.
Notes to editors
- 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
- 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.