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It’s time to rethink regulation, says PSA

6 August 2015

It’s time to rethink regulation, says PSA

The regulatory framework for health and social care needs radical change. It is out of date, over-complicated and too expensive, the Professional Standards Authority states in its report Rethinking regulation published today (6 August, 2015).

The body, which oversees organisations that regulate health and care professionals in the UK, calls for redesign of regulation in order to deal with pressure on the health and care sector. Without reform, the Authority argues, health and care systems in the UK cannot face up to future challenges including an ageing population, long-term conditions, co-morbidity, the rising cost of health technologies and a global shortage of health and care workers. 

The report explains why regulation isn't fit for purpose now and needs to be reformed so that it better supports professionals providing health and care. It argues that regulation of professionals cannot be changed in isolation but must take account of the places in which they work. It calls for deregulation, less regulation and better regulation. Rethinking Regulation makes a series of recommendations intended to reshape how regulation works so that it is able to face the challenges of the future, including: 

• Shared objectives for system and professional regulators
• Transparent benchmarking to set standards
• A rebuilding of trust between professionals, the public and regulators
• A reduced scope of regulation so it focuses on what works
• A proper risk assessment model

Harry Cayton, Chief Executive of the Professional Standards Authority, said: "Piecemeal adjustments to health and care regulation have, over time, made the system cumbersome, ineffective and expensive. Every part of our health and care system is changing in order to meet future needs. If patients are to benefit, regulation must undergo radical change too.

"Regulation is asked to do too much - and to do things it should not do. We need to understand that we cannot regulate risk out of healthcare and to use regulation only where we have evidence that it actually works. Ironically, the regulations that are meant to protect patients and service users are distracting professionals from this very task." 

The BDA has been hot on the heels of the report, calling on the Government to act on the regulation for the benefits of patients and practitioners. Mick Armstrong, Chair of the BDA, commented: "There are over a million regulated healthcare practitioners in Britain, serving tens of millions of patients. Political intransigence is letting antiquated laws remain standard practice. And it’s come at a cost, in time and money, and patients and practitioners deserve better.

"Bosses at the major healthcare regulators are in receipt of salaries larger than the Prime Minister’s. The people running these fiefdoms are enjoying power without responsibility, and it’s about time they put patients first.

"We need to see a clear focus on the fundamentals. That means protecting patients, building firm foundations, not succumbing to inexorable mission creep.

"Too many regulators have lost the confidence of their professions. Effective independent regulation requires trust, and rebuilding that will mean genuine engagement, not just lip service."

You can view the PSA report Rethinking Regulation here.

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