Standards body calls for overhaul of professional regulation

Health and social care regulators in the UK are outdated and should be redesigned so they support people to improve standards and services, according to a highly critical report.

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CSP chief executive Karen Middleton has stated that regulation must be proportionate and responsive to change

The document, Rethinking regulation, was published on 6 August by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. It argues that professional regulation has evolved in a ‘piecemeal fashion’ over more than 150 years.

Health and social care has changed, along with public expectations of the institutions and people who deliver care, says the authority, which oversees the Health and Care Professions Council and eight other statutory bodies.

It recognises the significance of further changes in professional roles and boundaries, new technologies and innovative treatments, and a shift to care delivered in the community or at home. And it says current structures of professional regulation are out-moded and based largely on a model of self-regulation by doctors.

Promoting success

According to the report there had been a ‘proliferation’ of regulatory organisations, which inevitably impedes the pace of change and improvement across the sector, as well as creating operational inefficiency and unnecessary expense.

The document says that fitness to practise allegations are made against a small percentage of the total number of registrants, while the continuing instances of harm to patients and the public as a result of unprofessional conduct is of great concern.

It calls for a new regulatory system which seeks to understand what motivates individuals, teams and organisations to succeed, and does not attempt to ‘frighten them to resentful compliance’.

Protecting the public

Karen Middleton, the CSP chief executive, said: ‘Regulation – whether of the healthcare system or the professions – must be proportionate and responsive to change.

‘Crucially, though, it must never be forgotten that it is there to protect the public and we must take great care not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.’

Sally Gosling, the CSP’s assistant director of practice and development, said the paper raised some interesting issues about the future of regulation. She said it reflected recommendations in the Francis report and the Law Commission review of the regulation of health and social care professionals.

Harry Cayton, chief executive of the Professional Standards Authority, said: ‘Every part of our health and care system is changing in order to meet future needs. If patients are to benefit, regulation must undergo radical change too.’

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by Gill Hitchcock

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