Law Commission concludes Regulation of Health and Social Care Professionals Project - April 2014
Published 7 April 2014
The Law Commission has published a Report and draft-bill setting out its vision for a single framework of regulation for Health and Social Care professions. The publication represents the long-awaited culmination of the Commission's Regulation of Health and Social Care Professionals Project which began with a consultation exercise in March 2012.
The Commission's proposals seek to sweep away what it describes as "the outdated and inflexible" processes currently in force, with the aim of introducing a clear and consistent framework of application to all relevant professions.
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The labyrinthine scheme of regulation by which different rules, procedures and standards currently operate to regulate 32 professions (made up of approximately 1.44 million registered professionals) has been a source of frustration to regulators, employers of regulated professionals and professionals themselves for several years.
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The complex way in which the regulation of health and social care professions has evolved means a clear and consistent framework for regulation is long-overdue. From our experience, the proposal of moving to a common concept of impaired fitness-to-practise as the reference point for regulatory sanctions is to be particularly welcomed.
The draft bill's proposal that a health or social care professional's fitness to practise may be impaired by "insufficient proficiency in the knowledge and use of the English language" (whilst widely anticipated following the case of Dr Daniel Ubani) is likely to be controversial in some quarters, in view of existing concerns that the current scheme of regulation serves to treat practitioners who have obtained their primary qualifications overseas unfairly.
Additionally, the suggestion that fitness to practise may be impaired by reason of "disgraceful misconduct" (rather than "misconduct") is likely to be seen by some as a regressive step.
Whilst there appears to be a wide-spread appetite for change, it is difficult to anticipate the extent to which any of the Law Commission's proposals are likely to gain legal force in the near future in view of limited parliamentary time in advance of a general election.
How we can help
The combination of our expertise in the health and social care sector together with our experience in advising both regulators and those subject to professional regulatory proceedings, makes us particularly well-placed to assist with all aspects of this evolving area. In particular, we can help with the following:
- Advice on notification to and liaison with statutory and other regulators;
- Development of processes to fairly and rigorously manage performance concerns relating to the professional practice of health and social care professionals (whether employees or otherwise);
- Defence of regulated health and social care professionals in cases brought by the statutory regulators;
- Specialist support to staff-members involved in professional regulatory processes as witnesses;
- Advice to Responsible Officers on specific obligations and assurance schemes designed to assist them fulfil relevant obligations.