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Have your say on proposed reforms for professional regulation

11 June 2021

By Matthew Redford (view more by this author)
Matthew is GOsC's Chief Executive and Registrar.

In March 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched a consultation on proposed reforms for professional regulation. The consultation is open until 16 June 2021. Matthew Redford shares his summary of the proposals.

The DHSC’s consultation, ‘Regulating healthcare professionals, protecting the public’, is closing soon, on 16 June. I would very much encourage you all to respond to this consultation so we can make sure that patient safety remains at the core of focus for regulatory reform.

At the GOsC, we are currently finalising our contribution to the consultation and we will publish that soon.

I would very much encourage you all to respond to this consultation so we can make sure that patient safety remains at the core of focus for regulatory reform

To help you contribute to the consultation yourself, I thought it might be helpful to share this quick summary of the proposals.

The situation the consultation seeks to address, as stated in the consultation document, is as follows: ‘The UK model of regulation for healthcare professionals is rigid, complex and needs to change to better protect patients, support our health services and to help the workforce meet future challenges. In doing so, it needs to be faster, fairer, more flexible and minimise costs to registrants’.

These are the principles of the consultation:

  • Public safety is paramount
  • Registrants’ rights must remain protected
  • The system should be able to respond to changing workforce models without the need for ongoing legislative change
  • Regulators should have broadly equivalent powers to maintain a level of consistency and effective public protection
  • Overly detailed legislation should be replaced

These are the areas of reform that are being looked at and I will look at each in turn below:

  • Governance and Operating Framework
  • Education and Training
  • Registration
  • Fitness to Practise
Governance and Operating Framework
  • Regulators should have a duty to co-operate, be transparent and ensure any changes to approach are proportionate
  • Introduction of a Unitary board model
  • Registration fees set without needing Privy Council approval
  • Regulators should be accountable to each UK country
Education and Training
  • The proposals would give regulators the powers to set: 
    Standards for the outcome of education and training
    Standards for providers who deliver courses or programmes of training leading to registration
    Standards for specific courses or programmes of training which lead to registration
  • Regulators should be able to approve, refuse, re-approve and withdraw approval of education and training providers, qualifications, courses
  • Powers to impose conditions and issue warnings to education providers
  • Set out rules and guidance for approach to continuing professional development
  • Hold a single register; publish certain information about registrants; annotate registers where necessary for patient protection
  • Set registration processes in rules and guidance
  • No discretionary powers to hold separate non-practising or student registers
Fitness to Practise

All regulators have a three-stage fitness to practise process:

  1. Initial assessment
  2. Case examiner stage
  3. FTP panel stage
  • Regulators should be able to consider concerns more than 5 years after they came to light, removing current restriction
  • Registrants should have the right of appeal against a decision by a case examiner, Fitness to Practise panel or Interim Measures panel.
  • Fitness to practise reforms would be most significant for GOsC
Next steps for reform

The consultation sets out the next steps for reform of professional regulation – but there are no consultation questions or proposals at this stage.

The Consultation includes reference to a Government White Paper which lays groundwork for a new Health and Care Bill. The White Paper plans include:

  • Extend powers to make changes to regulation of healthcare professionals through secondary legislation:
  • Power to remove a profession from regulation
  • Power to close a regulator
  • Power to allow regulators to delegate function to another

An independent review will be commissioned to consider how these powers might be used and we at the GOsC look forward to engaging positively with this review when it commences.

The DHSC commissioned independent review will assess how powers might be used including a review of the number of regulators. Work is due to commence this month and report to DHSC in December 2021 with options for the Secretary of State for Health. The GOsC approach is not about self-interest of the organisation, but is wholly focused on what is right for patient and public protection.

We are pleased to have been involved in shaping these proposals in partnership with the other professional regulatory bodies and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care and we would very much encourage all stakeholders to respond to this consultation so we can ensure that patient safety remains at the core of focus for regulatory reform.

Read more about the consultation