The Department for Health has launched a consultation on the regulation of the healthcare professions across the UK. The objective is to make it “faster, simpler, better and less costly.”

There are currently around 1.5 million people registered to practise in healthcare professions regulated by statute in the UK. The existing structure of this in practice is that there are 32 professions regulated by nine independent healthcare regulators. There are then a further 55 occupations regulated by 24 accredited voluntary registers. The current consultation encompasses the full breadth of these and affects regulated professions UK-wide.

As the numbers in each profession have grown, regulation has developed in a piecemeal fashion. In addition to an increase in the number of parties they are required to regulate, the number of functions that regulators are expected to fulfil has also gone up.

Regulators have always carried out functions such as basic registration, collection of fees and oversight of complaints. However the culture in which they now operate requires them to also establish a framework of professional competences and to monitor their members’ ongoing professional development within that structure.

As the system has evolved, criticisms have emerged surrounding transparency, efficiency and consistency.

The Law Commission previously produced a report in response to these criticisms recommending a simplified and consolidated framework. Building upon this, the Department for Health consultation will try to establish the steps that could be taken to make it easier for regulators to fulfil their functions and for regulated professionals and their patients / clients to benefit from them.

Suggestions include possible removal of some professions from a statutory footing and a reduction in the number of regulatory bodies to three or four. Additionally changes are discussed in relation to the statutory powers that the existing bodies have and development of a more responsive complaints handling mechanisms.

The closing date for the consultation is 28 January 2018.