Doctors, dentists, nurses and other health workers accused of misconduct face faster disciplinary action in the biggest overhaul of professional regulation for more than a century, a move that has already prompted anger from unions. The Department of Health is carrying out a consultation on the changes, which will run until January 2018.
The Department says that the UK's model of professional regulation for healthcare professionals has become complex and outdated. ‘It needs to change to protect patients better, to support our health services and to help the workforce meet future challenges. Better and more responsive healthcare professional regulation is a shared ambition for both the regulators and all 4 UK governments’. The responses to this consultation will allow the government to consider future options for the development of regulation of healthcare professionals in the UK.
Proposals have been made to merge nine regulators into three to make it easier for patients to complain. An online register of 1.5 million health professionals and a single set of standards policed by one adjudicator are among options in the draft proposals. A blacklist banning incompetent staff could also be introduced for roles such as healthcare assistants and physician associates.
Ministers say they want to streamline “cumbersome” bureaucracy that failed to spot the Mid Staffordshire scandal, saying regulation is too legalistic, leaves patients baffled and drags out investigations for years. Mediation of disputes and less adversarial investigations could resolve problems more quickly.
Philip Dunne, the health minister, said: “The current regulatory system is not fit for a modern healthcare service like our NHS. That’s why we want to understand what needs to change to make it clearer and simpler for the regulators and healthcare professionals, and to ensure patients have the best possible protection.”
However, Mick Armstrong, Chair of the BDA said: “Dentists have had to contend with the most expensive and least effective health regulator in Britain, but it’s unclear if merger is a silver bullet. We can understand the appeal of a Super-Regulator among ministers. It offers the look of big change, and someone else will pick up the tab. The challenge will be achieving real efficiencies without losing vital expertise. It would be easy to gloss over severe systemic problems with a cursory rebrand. Real reform requires a watchdog that really understands the challenges patients and practitioners are facing”.
Link to consultation at: https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/professional-regulation/regulatory-reform/consultation/intro/