With the ever increasing media focus on the responsibilities and duties of health and social care professionals, Rebecca Ryan and Grace Keegan review the processes to be put in place by Ireland’s first multi-profession regulator

At present, if a member of the public wishes to complain about the conduct of a social worker or a psychologist, limited recourse is available. CORU was established to change this. CORU is the regulator for Health and Social Care professionals. the name CORU derives from the Irish word “cóir” which means fair, just and proper. CORU has responsibility for protecting the public by regulating 12 different health and social care professions, involving over 20,000 professionals.

It is also intended that two other agencies will also come within CORU’s remit, once appropriate legislation has been passed: the Opticians Board – which registers optometrists and dispensing opticians; and the prehospital emergency Care Council – which regulates emergency medical technicians, paramedics and advanced paramedics.

The Council

The Council was established in 2007, and has a lay majority within its 25 members. Its aim is to protect the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct and education throughout each of the 12 professions. The Council is also responsible for developing the complaints mechanism and will ultimately have responsibility for conducting disciplinary inquiries.

Fitness to practise framework

The fitness to practise framework within CORU is currently being developed. However, it is anticipated that its approach will mirror that employed by the Medical Council and other healthcare regulators who have recently undergone legislative reform.

Registration boards and professional registers

A registration board and a professional register will be established for each of the 12 professions. each board will have responsibility for approving and monitoring training courses, establishing the code of conduct and ethics, and the standards of performance, to whichall registrants must adhere. In order to ensure consistency, the Council will supervise and co-ordinate the activities of the registration boards.

To date, registration boards have only been established for social workers and radiographers. However, it is intended that registration boards for physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and dieticians will be established by the end of 2013. there is no timeline as yet for the establishment of registration boards for the remaining professions.

Social workers

To date, the social workers register is the only professional register that is currently open. Any professional who wishes to practice under the title “social worker”, must register with CORU prior to 31 May 2013. Once registration is complete, the register will be available to the public online. Unregistered individuals who continue to work using the title after 31 May 2013 may face prosecution with a fine of up to €5,000 and/or imprisonment if convicted.

It is anticipated that the radiographers register will be established by mid-2013.

Conclusion

It is evident that CORU was established in accordance with the general objective of streamlining the regulation of health and social care professionals. Once the framework for the investigation of complaints is in place, the public will have an appropriate forum to address concerns held regarding a registrant. It will also be interesting to see whether any other professions will be brought within the COrU umbrella in the future.

This article was first published in the Irish Medical News on 11 March 2013.