The Government has set out plans to modernise fitness to practise processes and give healthcare regulators greater autonomy to be responsive to a fast-changing healthcare environment.
The UK Department of Health & Social Care has published its response to the consultation on Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation.
In the response, the Government has said it will introduce new legislation will enable healthcare regulator’s fitness to practise cases to be resolved more quickly.
There is recognition that the current legislation that governs the UK regulatory bodies is bureaucratic, inflexible and has led to complex and inefficient systems including that of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
The Government has committed introduce legislation to reform the healthcare regulatory system “to enable the regulators to place a greater emphasis on supporting the professionalism of all registrants, while continuing to take appropriate action to manage concerns about a minority of professionals.”
The Government said that fundamental change can only be delivered through freeing the regulatory bodies from the constraints of prescriptive and bureaucratic legislation.
What is changing?
Modernisation of fitness to practise processes
The Government said at the heart of these changes is the “much needed modernisation of fitness topractise processes.” This will mean that healthcare regulatory bodies will be given “a full range of powers to investigate and resolve complaints about their registrant’s fitness to practise more quickly, providing early resolution for patients, families and professionals, and ensuring that the steps necessary to protect the public are put in place sooner.”
The process will be more collaborative and less adversarial, more efficient and less bureaucratic. This will give regulators the capacity to invest more of their resources in supporting the professionalism of all registrants.
The fitness to practise reforms, the Government said, will aim to deliver:
- Modern and efficient fitness to practise processes;
- Better support for professionals; and
- More responsive and accountable regulation.
Greater autonomy for regulatory bodies
The Government said that too much of the regulators’ day-to-day functions is set out in legislation. This adds unnecessary delay and complexity when making simple operational changes and hinders the regulatory bodies’ ability to be responsive to a fast changing healthcare environment.
The new legislation will ensure greater autonomy for regulatory bodies to set more of their own operating procedures leading to more responsive regulation. However, with greater autonomy also comes the requirement for greater accountability. The Government will also put in place measures to support this, including requirements to update patients and family members on the progress of fitness to practise cases in which they have an interest.
Christine Elliott, Chair of Council said,
“HCPC fully supports the Government’s proposals. The modernisation of fitness to practise processes and legislative streamlining will enable the HCPC to become a more agile, responsive and collaborative regulator.
“In today’s fast changing healthcare environment, the proposed changes will boost our drive to be a lean regulator, working across the system and investing to protect the public we serve and the professions we regulate.”
Marc Seale, Chief Executive and Registrar said,
“We welcome these proposals. When implemented, they will bring benefits to all our stakeholders, including service users, employers and registrants themselves. We will continue to work closely with the UK and Devolved Governments to implement the new legislation in due course. ”
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