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Jeremy Hunt to Consider Merging Health Regulation Bodies

Ministers are considering a controversial shake-up of health regulation that could see nine bodies merged into one new super-watchdog covering around a million health professionals.

 

Jeremy Hunt to consider merging health regulation bodies

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is preparing to publish a consultation paper that could lead to the medical and nursing professions no longer having their own dedicated disciplinary bodies.

Ministers are determined to reform what they see as the unwieldy and confusing set-up under which different types of health staff each have their own regulator. For example, the General Medical Council regulates Britain’s 281,000 doctors and the Nursing and Midwifery Council performs the same role for about 600,000 nurses and midwives.

Hunt believes an overhaul would improve patient safety and also make health regulation more efficient by streamlining how complaints from patients are investigated.

Aides point out that Robert Francis’s 2013 report into the Mid Staffordshire hospital care scandal highlighted public uncertainty over which health regulatory body did what and the need for them to work more closely together.

But opposition to the plans is already building, with critics questioning the value and timing of any reorganisation that follows the consultation.

“Is this the right time to be planning a major overhaul of professional regulation, given the myriad problems facing health and social care?” said Donna Kinnair, director of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing.

“The proposals raise a huge number of questions which will need addressing before any regulatory changes are made,” she added.

The GMC, which was set up in 1858, is also thought to harbour reservations about the plan. And the British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, is urging Hunt to retain a regulator just for medics. “Given the diversity of training structures, career paths and healthcare responsibilities among the different professions, we believe that the public interest is best served by continued regulation of doctors through a separate medical regulator,” said Dr Mark Porter, the chair of its ruling council.

The consultation paper will set out a range of options. They will include merging all nine bodies into one new overarching health regulator; bringing some of the nine together; and leaving the nine as separate entities but working more closely together. Hunt has “no preferred and no plan”, aides insist.

Department of Health sources say Hunt wants to improve public protection against the possibility of being harmed by poor professional practice and ensure that concerns about the poor performance of health professionals is dealt with quickly and proportionately.

Candace Imison, director of policy at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, welcomed any possible reform as overdue good news. “The regulatory separation we have at the moment can enforce professional separation, and create an awkward position over who is in charge as new roles develop,” she said. “But there needs to be enough time and effort to get this new organisation right, which the NHS has not always managed in the past. We also need to be sure that nurses do not end up playing second fiddle.”

The nine bodies between them cost about £288m to run but are self-funding from fees so involve no cost to the public purse.

 

Source: the Guardian

 

 

Jeremy Hunt to Consider Merging Health Regulation Bodies

 
 
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