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Modernising professional regulation in healthcare

Healthcare professional attending to patient's needs during Covid-19

This pandemic has taught us a lot about our health service. One of the most important lessons for me was how flexibly the NHS responded to this crisis, and how so many of the inflexible rules that get in the way of caring for patients melted away in the heat of a crisis.

A few months ago, I pledged that we would look at every rule and process afresh, and ask whether it makes sense after what we’ve learnt.

I’ve heard from so many health and care colleagues how they welcomed the ability to act with more flexibility during this crisis, like the ability to draw on emergency registers and welcome former colleagues back to the workforce. This is something I’m determined to build on.

Earlier this year, as part of a wider programme of reform, I set out my ambitions for a new Health and Social Care Bill which will deliver a truly integrated system – one with collaboration and flexibility at its core.

An important part of this is making sure that the professions protected in law are the right ones and that the level of regulatory oversight is proportionate to the risks to the public. To do this, we'll be conducting a review of the professional healthcare regulators and seeking views from far and wide to make sure we get it right.

We’re also putting forward proposals for more modern, flexible professional regulation for healthcare. These reforms have been called for by professional regulators and the professions they regulate.

To support these proposals, we’ve opened a consultation to hear the views of patients and healthcare professionals on our ambitions for professional regulation.

We want to move away from the current model, which can be confusing, inconsistent and slow. Instead, we will bust the bureaucracy that gets in the way of you doing your job, and ensure regulators like the GMC and NMC can adopt a more flexible approach to regulating health professionals.
These changes mean better protection for the public, for example, by resolving complaints without always requiring lengthy hearings, and a system that is able to respond better to changes in the provision of health and care, while still maintaining strong standards.

The reforms extend emergency registration powers to all regulators so they can better respond to unexpected workforce challenges, like future pandemics, without the need for the type of further legislation we had to bring in during the first wave. This will allow regulators to better support their existing registrants and react quickly to future challenges.

These changes will also introduce the regulation of physician associates and anaesthesia associates, supporting their increased contribution to healthcare and the role they play in keeping patients safe.

We’ve developed these proposals in partnership with the professional healthcare regulators and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care.

Now, we want to hear from patients and healthcare professionals on our proposals. To make sure we gather a wide range of feedback on the proposals, my team will be running a series of webinars. Please follow the links below to indicate your interest in attending.

Our consultation is open until the 16th June; I urge you to have your say so we can build on the progress we’ve made and make sure our health and care system is truly fit for the future.

The Department of Health and Social Care will be hosting three webinars that focus on the core issues in the reform consultation. If you would like to hear more on the proposals, please sign up below:

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