A new, more proportionate and effective system to regulate health and social care workers will protect the public more efficiently than at present, the Health Secretary claimed yesterday. Andrew Lansley said that the rare cases of poor practice or behaviour need a rapid response from employers or national regulatory bodies, whereas the current system of regulation has become too complex and expensive, as well as needing constant Government intervention to keep it updated.
As he presented the Command Paper Enabling Excellence - Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers to Parliament yesterday, he said: “Regulation of healthcare workers and social workers makes an important contribution to safeguarding the public, including vulnerable adults and children. But we need an approach to professional regulation that is proportionate and effective.
“The changes we are progressing through the Health and Social Care Bill will give greater independence to those who work in healthcare across the UK and social care in England, to their employers and to the professional regulatory bodies. This will be balanced by more effective accountability in how they exercise that freedom.”
Mr Lansley stressed the need for a system with minimal costs and complexity but one that both reassures and safeguards patients, service users, carers and the public. ‘Enabling Excellence’ contains proposals:
- to devolve power to the regulators, while enhancing accountability and sustaining effective national safeguards where necessary;
- to constrain the growth and costs of the regulatory system at a time when health and social work professionals are facing pay constraints;
- for a system of assured voluntary registration as a more proportionate approach to ensuring high standards in the workforce;
- to simplify the regulatory structure.
The Health Secretary announced that the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence – which will be more independent and self-funding – will set the standards for registers and accredit organisations meeting its standards. This should allow both the public and potential employers to check a worker’s credentials. Employers will be offered incentives to use only registered workers.
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “We support the principles set out in Enabling Excellence and recognise the importance of a system that offers the public protection and confidence in Professional Regulation regardless of who provides it.
“However, moving forward we would like to see greater recognition of the need to consult with employers in the NHS on their future role. Ultimately it is employers who, rightly, are publicly answerable for the competence of the staff they employ therefore they should be central to decisions on their future role.
“Employers have told us it is essential that regulation is streamlined and cost effective while also being proportionate to the risk of actual harm to patients. In addition, new proposals must be aligned with the current landscape and speed of change in the NHS.”
The Health Secretary also told Parliament that herbal medicine practitioners will be regulated from April 2012.