latest health care news

01.04.14

Healthcare regulators back ‘once in a generation’ reform proposals

Seven of England’s eight healthcare regulators have called for cross-party support in Parliament to pass a proposed new Bill that would, in theory, deliver a single, clear, consistent and modern regulatory framework.

In a letter published in the Sunday Times and seen by NHE, the senior members of each regulatory authority have urged the passing of the draft Bill published by the Law Commission, due to be published tomorrow (2 April).

The letter is signed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the General Medical Council, the General Chiropractic Council, the General Optical Council, the General Pharmaceutical Council, the General Osteopathic Council and the General Dental Council.

They said: “This will be a once in a generation opportunity to bring long awaited reform to ensure that the health professionals who treat us are properly trained, competent and up to date.”

In 2011, the coalition government tasked the Law Commission with undertaking a fundamental review of the laws governing the regulation of healthcare professionals in the UK.

The letter reads: “Ministers recognised that we were hamstrung by laws which were outdated, complex, highly prescriptive and difficult to change.

“Too often we knew what was wrong, but legal structures designed for a different era made it impossible for us to put things right quickly and efficiently.”

Following this, the Law Commission has proposed a new bill which seeks to simplify and modernise the law and establish a streamlined, transparent and responsive system of regulation. The proposed legislation is expected to contain 277 clauses and is likely to ensure that regulators comply with article 6 of the Human Rights Act, which states that individuals must have a fair hearing.

The NMC told NHE that the bill would allow it to easily make changes to its legislation without the need for parliamentary intervention, which can take upwardsof 18 months. It would also mean all healthcare profession regulators would be operating on one modern legislative framework, providing them with a better platform to work together and share functions if desired.

However, at the moment, it is not clear when the Bill will be implemented.

The only regulator in England not to sign the letter was the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Spokeswoman Amy Morgan told NHE: "We welcome the final report and draft Bill that has been published by the Law Commission, and fully engaged with them in the development of their proposals. However, we felt we did not need to be co-signatories to the letter in the Sunday Times because our legislation as it currently stands is more recent than others and, therefore, gives us the flexibility we need to deliver robust regulation. We are now looking forward to working with government and other regulators to take these recommendations forward."

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