Government responds to proposed legal reform of health regulation

THE Government has published a response to draft legislation from the Law Commissions of the UK that would create a single legal framework for regulating health and social care professions across the UK.

Currently the GMC and other regulators are dependent on the UK Government and Parliament to introduce new legislation every time changes are required to their structures and processes.

In April 2014, the Law Commissions of the UK published the draft Regulation of Health and Social Care Professions Bill which if agreed would replace the separate legislation of the nine different regulators with a single legal framework and introduce a considerable degree of consistency and autonomy enabling each regulator to decide how best to carry out their duties and exercise their powers.

In its response to the draft legislation, the Government stated: "The fitness to practise framework proposed by the Law Commissions aims to achieve a consistent approach to how the regulatory bodies deal with concerns about health and care professionals and to establish more effective, proportionate and streamlined procedures which allow for flexibility where appropriate while ensuring both transparency in, and oversight of, decision-making.

"Although there are a small number of areas where we do not accept the Law Commission's recommendations, overall the recommendations envisage a much leaner process enabling the regulatory bodies to take swifter action to ensure public protection. We welcome this ambition."

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, commented: "This is a once in a generation opportunity to reform the way health professionals are regulated throughout the UK.

"The government’s response today, signed by all four Health Ministers, to proposals made by the three Law Commissions of the UK is most welcome – while there are improvements that can and should be made to the Bill, the real question now is whether the political parties will commit to taking this forward.

"Our ability to protect patients and drive up standards of practice is being hampered by outdated legislation that is no longer fit for purpose – it needs to be swept away because it is cumbersome, inflexible and far too difficult to reform.

"We will continue to work with the Governments across the UK to turn this Bill into law as quickly as possible following the General Election but it will be vital that all Governments give it the priority it deserves."

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