Considering Regulatory Reform

The government consultation on Regulatory Reform in Healthcare is open until 23rd January and you are free to have your say:

Promoting Professionalism, Reforming Regulation

This consultation is extremely important for healthcare professionals and something you should be keeping a watchful eye on.

There are currently 9 healthcare regulators in the UK, and around 1.5 million healthcare professionals. The number of professionals regulated by each regulator varies from a few 1000 to almost 700 000. Each of the regulators has common aims in terms of protecting the public, setting and maintaining professional standards, taking fitness to practice actions, maintaining a register of professionals and setting standards of education and training.

There are several proposals within this document, a brief summary of key points:

  • Setting criteria of which healthcare professionals should be regulated
  • Proposed reassessment to determine level of statutory assessment of professions
  • Potentially fewer regulatory bodies
  • Changes in fitness to practice processes and powers to be more flexible and possibly include mediation
  • Looking at ways regulators can work more closely together

Why is regulatory reform needed?

All the healthcare regulators agree that reform is needed. Outdated laws seriously limit innovation and progression. There are irregularities in the laws governing each of the regulators and the law isn’t adaptable enough to meet the changing demands and requirements of healthcare.

The aim is for regulation to be faster, simpler, better and less costly. Perhaps the current problems can be seen by reading the aims of the reform as stated by the UK governments:

“In taking forward reform of regulation of healthcare professionals, the four UK governments have five objectives. These are to:

  • improve the protection of the public from the risk of harm from poor professional practice;
  • support the development of a flexible workforce that is better able to meet the challenges of delivering healthcare in the future;
  • deal with concerns about the performance of professionals in a more proportionate and responsive fashion;
  • provide greater support to regulated professionals in delivering high quality care; and
  • increase the efficiency of the system.”

Promoting Professionalism, Reforming Regulation p.7

Is regulatory reform a surprise?

No – the government and Professional Standards Authority have been discussing reforming regulation for many years. The consultation has been expected for a long time but there have been several political distractions overshadowing regulatory reform like a General election and Brexit.  The agenda is now progressing and it will be very interesting to see the outcome of the consultation and how quickly the agenda moves on.

Should osteopaths be concerned?

Reading the documents and proposals the biggest surprise to me was the suggestion that some professions could potentially be removed from statutory regulation. When you think how long osteopaths fought for the Osteopaths Act and the great achievement that was, a potential threat to osteopathic status is quite concerning?  I have no idea how osteopathy would fare in reassessment, some of the HCPC regulated professions stand out as having greater potential to be reassessed in my opinion.

The question is what would regulation look like with fewer regulators. Would the diversity of osteopathy be affected? – we are all aware of the broad spectrum of osteopathic practices.  There are a lot of questions that arise from the proposals. Essentially we have no idea how this might look and how far the government proposals will go but we certainly need to be keeping a close eye on developments.

This outcome of this consultation is very important for the osteopathic profession.  Read the document and have your say today.


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