In its first report on the work of the Health and Care Professions Council, the Health Committee backs the HCPC’s approach to regulation of social care workers in opposing the Government’s plans for a voluntary register and supporting a negative register, a barring process for those found to be unfit to practise, as a first step to regulation in this sector. Beyond that first step, the Committee recommends that the Government, working with the HCPC and the Professional Standards Authority "should develop further proposals for more effective regulation to provide proper safeguards in this area".
A draft Law Commission Bill on the regulation of health and social care professions (published in April this year) sets out the framework for a negative register, but it was not included in the Queens’ Speech either as a draft or a substantive Bill. There are a number of matters relating to regulators such as the GMC and NMC, as well as the HCPC, which might have been legislated for in that Bill, and so the Committee calls on the Government to set out what changes to the powers of regulators is it is planning to make through secondary legislation instead.
The Francis report
Following up themes in the Francis report, the Committee argues that, for the effective regulation of clinical and caring professions, regulators need to be visible and accessible to registrants, and also to patients and members of the public who wish to raise concerns about patient safety. Regulatory bodies must also collaborate effectively between themselves.
For those reasons, the Committee recommends that the HCPC continues to monitor its own profile both with patients and service users, with professionals, and with other relevant organisations, and will seek further evidence of the progress the HCPC and other professional regulators have made in implementing the recommendations of the Francis report at its next accountability hearings in the autumn.
Regulation of other professional groups
Since 2003, the HCPC has recommended to Government that statutory regulation be extended to eleven other professions. Of these, the only groups to receive statutory regulation to date are operating department practitioners and practitioner psychologists [the other groups are Clinical Perfusion Scientists, Clinical Physiologists, Dance Movement Therapists, Clinical Technologists, Medical Illustrators, Maxillofacial Prosthetists & Technologists, Sports Therapists, Sonographers and Genetic Counsellors].
The Committee does not seek to make judgements on individual professions, but argues that if there are unregulated groups which need to be regulated on the grounds of patient safety, this should be dealt with swiftly.
The Committee recommends that the HCPC lists any professional groups for which they feel there is a compelling patient safety case for statutory regulation so that this can be pursued with the Department of Health as a matter of urgency. The Committee is also concerned at the length of time it can take for professional groups to gain statutory regulation. Given that new groups can be added to the HCPC’s register by means of secondary legislation, the Committee says that there should be no undue delay in extending statutory regulation to professional groups where there is a compelling patient safety case for doing so.
David Tredinnick MP, current acting Chair of the Health Committee, said
"The Committee concluded that the HCPC operates as an effective regulator of the sixteen professions for which it has responsibility. Our most significant findings are on issues for which the HCPC does not yet have regulatory responsibility. Continuing concerns about regulation of the social care workforce need to be addressed, and we support the HCPC’s proposal of a negative register as the most effective first step in providing protection for the public. We also call on the Government to act swiftly to make the HCPC the regulator for other groups where that is considered necessary for protection of the public.
"We were surprised that the Government does not intend to make progress with the Law Commission Bill on regulation of health and care professionals. For that reason we think it is important for the Government to set out as soon as possible what changes it intends to implement to the procedures of regulators such as the HCPC, GMC and NMC to make sure that they are as effective as possible".