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What ‘promoting professionalism, reforming regulation’ means for healthcare professionals


David Edwards, director and head of the healthcare sector team, highlights what healthcare professionals need to be aware of following the government’s response to the consultation on reforming regulation.

Between October 31, 2017 and January 23, 2018, the Department of Health authorised a consultation paper to be prepared to consider what reforms are needed across the UK healthcare regulatory system, in order to support workforce development while maximising public protection.

The paper covers the major UK health regulated bodies

These include:

General Chiropractic Council (GCC), General Dental Council (GDC), General Medical Council (GMC), General Osteopathic Council (GOC), General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC), Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The objective behind the consultation is to help regulators in the following ways:

  • To be more responsive to change
  • To facilitate development of a flexible workforce
  • To ensure the public is protected in the most efficient way

In July 2019 the government released its response to the consultation paper and proposes to implement legislation, which may fundamentally change the regulatory landscape.

Reduction in the number of regulated bodies

The consultation proposes an amalgamation of a number of the nine bodies. This could bring financial benefits, simplicity for employers and consistency for the sector.

There were potential challenges highlighted with this approach, such as a loss of specialism or loss of professional identity.

The government however did acknowledge the benefits of a potential reduction, or amalgamation of the regulatory bodies, and is considering how this aspect could be best implemented. There is acknowledgement that more work is needed on this proposal to ensure the challenges outlined are addressed.

Responsive regulation

The government is in agreement with the idea of sanctioning greater responsibility and devolution to regulatory bodies. This is with the view of increasing responsiveness in order to facilitate quicker changes to healthcare delivery and workforce developments.

Although the government would still have oversight in the amendments, it is envisaged that regulatory bodies will have more responsibility over their operation and functions.

This does present a challenge for the regulatory bodies, as with the increased responsibility they must ensure that any changes made to the current practice are beneficial, not only for the public but also for the professionals they regulate.

Further powers to resolve fitness to practice cases

The government confirmed that it would bring forward secondary legislation to provide further and consistent fitness to practice powers for the nine regulatory bodies.

A key objective would be the conclusion of fitness to practice cases at an earlier stage, and in a more proportionate way. This could lead to swifter resolution of matters, which may be to the benefit of all concerned.

Be aware of the proposed changes

Many further areas for reform are addressed in both the consultation paper and subsequent government response. It is important that healthcare professionals are aware of all the changes that may be on the horizon, and in particular changes that may affect their existing regulatory body, as this could fundamentally affect their working lives.


Harrison Drury’s Healthcare sector team provides a wide range of legal services to organisations, businesses and individuals in the healthcare sector. This includes advice on regulatory and disciplinary matters, dispute resolution, corporate and commercial services, property and employment law.

 To speak to a member of our healthcare team please contact David Edwards on 01772 258321.

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