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Government accepts the Law Commissions’ recommendations for reforming the regulation of health care professionals

29/1/15

The Government has accepted the vast majority of the Law Commissions’ recommendations for reforming the law that relates to the regulation of health care professionals across the UK and the regulation of social workers in England. This was a joint review undertaken by the Law Commissions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Announcing the decision on 29 January, Dr Daniel Poulter MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, acknowledged in a Written Ministerial Statement the Government’s “overwhelming support” for the Commissions’ ambitions for improvement.

The Government’s formal response, signed by the Ministers for Health of each of the four countries, thanks the Law Commissions for their work and their comprehensive report published in 2014. Specifically, the response spells out the Government’s agreement with the Commissions’ recommendations that there should be:

  • a single, overarching objective of public protection placed on each regulator
  • wider powers and greater flexibility for the regulators to investigate and dispose of cases
  • greater consistency in the conduct of fitness to practise panels
  • greater separation between the regulators’ investigation and adjudication functions
  • an overarching duty on the regulators to ensure the ongoing fitness to practice of registrants, and
  • greater flexibility in how the regulators oversee medical schools and other forms of education.

Welcoming the announcement, Nicholas Paines QC, Law Commissioner for Public Law in England and Wales, said: “The framework for promoting high standards of professional practice and behaviour, and holding health and social care professionals to account, needs to be brought up to date and made fit for the future.

“We have recommended that the existing legislation be swept away and replaced with a coherent legal framework, within which each regulator should be driven by the single objective of public protection. We are delighted that the Government agrees with our position, has accepted the thrust of our recommendations and intends to legislate, when parliamentary time allows, to implement these important reforms.”

  1. The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.
  2. “Regulation of Health Care Professionals, Regulation of Social Care Professionals in England” (April 2014), published jointly by the Law Commission for England and Wales, Scottish Law Commission and Northern Ireland Law Commission, is available at: http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/areas/Healthcare_professions.htm
  3. Written Ministerial Statement, 29 January 2015, Dr Daniel Poulter MP, and full text of the Government’s response: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2015-01-29/HCWS235/
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