The Regulation of Health and Social Care Professions etc. Bill

Much of the news from this month concerns the recently released the Regulation of Health and Social Care Professions Etc. Bill (The Bill). Read our update here

General Medical Council (GMC)

  • The GMC has welcomed the new Bill as a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to future proof medical regulation in the UK. The Bill is described as providing a single flexible and consistent framework for all healthcare regulators a vast improvement on the current ‘bureaucratic and legalistic’ arrangements that are currently in place. The new regime is expected to encourage innovation and improve effectiveness with less reliance on government legislation. The power to appeal against perceived lenient Fitness to Practise Panel decisions and the ability to strike off doctors who receive serious convictions without a Panel hearing have been cited as particularly welcome. The GMC is also seeking to introduce a ‘dishonourable discharge’ for doctors facing serious allegations who agree to leave the register. This would allow removal by mutual consent with a record of the concerns against them.  
  • The GMC has indicated that the NHS medical revalidation scheme that was introduced in 2012 is delivering value, but more needs to be done.  All doctors licensed to practise are now required to demonstrate every 5 years that their knowledge is up to date and that they are fit to practise. The NHS Revalidation Support Team have released research that indicates that this system is increasing the number and quality of annual appraisals of doctors and may be helping to identify concerns earlier as a result.

General Pharmaceutical Council

  • The GPhC has also been vocal in its support of the Bill. It agrees that the framework will provide for a ‘modern and effective professional regulatory framework’. Going forward, it intends to contribute constructively in future discussions regarding the proposed changes. The GPhC will now consider the proposals and the associated implications for pharmacy regulation.  
  • The GPhC have published the results of the Registrant Survey 2013, the first major survey about the daily roles and resposibilites of pharmacists. It will use the results to improve the way pharmacy registrants and services are regulated, including assuring the fitness to practise of professionals and the quality of education and training.

Security Industry Authority

  • The SIA will stop issuing paper-based licence applications on 24 March 2014 and will no longer accept the paper-based applications from 7 April 2014 in order to provide an easier, cheaper and quicker service. This application system was developed following calls for a faster, more modern and more efficient system. The removal of paper applications will, the SIA say, reduce mistakes, discourage fraud and save applicants money.

Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board

  • The SRA worked with the BSB to develop new guidance to remind solicitors of their obligations when it comes to informing clients of complaints procedures. Solicitors should make complaints information available to clients directly, however not all are informing clients of the appropriate recourse when they instruct barristers. Barristers also have an obligation to inform clients of procedures, however problems arise if solicitors do not forward on the details or give barristers contact information for the client.  
  • This guidance was first mooted by the Legal Services Board in 2010 and has been reflected in the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and the BSB Handbook. The SRA recognises the importance of being able to complain in ensuring confidence in the profession, and this guidance will make it easier for both solicitors and barristers to keep clients informed by providing client contact details directly to barristers, and forwarding chambers’ complaints information directly to clients.

Health and Care Professions Council

  • The HCPC has launched consultations for input on potential changes to professional standards for biomedical scientists and clinical scientists. It is hoped this review will ensure that the standards are relevant, appropriate and applicable to the professions and to maintain consistency between the professions where possible. The consultation will run from 31 March to 20 June 2014.  
  • The HCPC has responded positively to the recommendations set out in the Bill. The HCPC believe that the Bill will improve regulatory processes, provide consistency and flexibility and will be beneficial in protecting the public. The HCPC particularly welcomes a barring scheme. Negative regulation would, in their opinion, provide a proportionate and cost effective mechanism for regulating those outside a system of personal accountability.

General Dental Council

  • The GDC has greeted the Bill as an opportunity to make dental regulation more responsive to the needs and expectations of both patients and the public and enable it to modernise its fitness to practise processes. The GDC has seen a stark increase in complaints in the last 3 years and it is hoped the draft Bill will facilitate systems that deal with these complaints fairly, effectively and without delay.