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Professional regulation

UK government accepts recommendations for reforming regulation of healthcare professionals

Government agrees to recommendations made in response to the Francis inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The UK government has broadly accepted the recommendations made in response to the Francis inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust

Source: John Keates / Alamy

The Law Commissions’ recommendations were drafted to address concerns raised by the Francis inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust

The UK government has broadly accepted the Law Commissions’ recommendations for reforming the regulation of healthcare professionals across the UK and of social workers in England.

The Law Commissions’ recommendations, published in April 2014, are aimed at allowing regulatory bodies to be more proactive, improving co-operation between them and giving the Professional Standards Authority a clearer oversight role. They were drafted to address concerns about health and care regulation raised by the Francis inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in February 2013.

The government has agreed that there should be a single, overarching objective of public protection placed on each regulator, and that they should have wider powers and greater flexibility to investigate and dispose of cases. In addition, there should be greater consistency in the conduct of fitness-to-practise panels, and greater separation between the regulators’ investigation and adjudication functions. Regulators should also have an overarching duty to ensure the ongoing fitness to practise of registrants, and greater flexibility in how they oversee education.

Specifically, in relation to pharmacy, the government has agreed that the Electronicjuice of Northern Ireland should not be incorporated into the new legislative scheme unless its representational role is removed. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland will now explore options for future arrangements for the regulation of the pharmacy profession in Northern Ireland.

The premises regulation provisions of the Pharmacy Order 2010 will be retained, but there will be minor changes to the powers of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to regulate premises, as suggested by the Law Commissions, the government says.

The GPhC welcomes the government’s acceptance of the proposals. “We have always been clear that the interests of patients and the public should sit at the heart of any legislative reform, along with the ability for regulators to adapt and provide flexible and responsive systems that protect public safety and promote high standards in professional practice,” says the GPhC’s chief executive, Duncan Rudkin.

Cure the NHS — a small group of relatives, patients and community members who successfully campaigned for a public inquiry into the failings at Mid Staffordshire — also welcomed the government’s response to the Law Commissions’ recommendations.

“For too long the regulators of health professionals have worked in isolation with archaic practices that have been confusing to the public,” a spokesperson says. “These reforms are long overdue and will help to protect the public.” 

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20067776

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