In 'Reshaping regulation for public protection', the Professional Standards Authority share their view on the implications of the Health and Care Bill for professional regulation.
The Bill, currently going through Parliament, proposes new powers for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to abolish healthcare professional regulators as well as deregulate professions. In parallel with the progress of the Bill, an independent review, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), is looking at the regulatory landscape and will provide options for the exercise of these powers.
Inquiries from Bristol to Paterson have highlighted the complexity of the regulatory system and the risk of patient safety concerns falling between organisational boundaries. The Professional Standards Authority recognise that the professional regulators have done much to improve collaboration and the planned reforms to regulator powers and governance may support this. It is important that these reforms proceed regardless of what structural changes are taken forward.
However, with reconfiguration now on the table, they believe wider changes are needed to simplify the system to improve public protection and to support professionals in meeting the wider challenges facing patients, service users and the health and care sector.
In the report the Professional Standards Authority put forward the view that protecting patients and the public should be the driving force behind any changes made to professional regulation.
They make the case that that creating a single regulator would be the best way to deal with the problems in the current system and would make regulation simpler for patients, professionals, employers and educators. However, recognising that there may not be an appetite for such a big change at this time, they suggest that reducing the overall number of regulators would help and could be a first step towards a simpler, more coherent framework.
The report also emphasises the need for a risk-based approach to deciding which professions are regulated by law and a proportionate approach to managing occupational risk, making use of alternatives to statutory regulation where appropriate.