Reform of health professional regulation a good deal for patients, the public and the profession, says The King's Fund

The King's Fund today broadly welcomed the government's White Paper on the regulation of doctors and other health care professionals, hailing the proposals as a good deal for patients, the public and the medical profession.

Commenting in response to the publication of the White Paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety: The regulation of health professionals in the 21st century, King's Fund Deputy Director of Policy Anna Dixon said:

'We welcome the White Paper's proposals to establish an independent adjudication body, separate from the General Medical Council (GMC), which will achieve greater independent oversight and ensure professionals get a fair hearing. We hope that other professional regulators will take up the opportunity this presents for achieving greater independence of their own adjudication functions.

'Having equal numbers of lay people and health professionals sitting on the new professional regulatory bodies, and making sure medical representatives are appointed rather than elected, will lead to more transparent and fairer decision-making. The government's commitment to defining more clearly who is eligible to be a lay member is also to be welcomed. If regulators are to act in the public interest these members should represent society.'

The White Paper proposes that the revalidation procedure – the so-called MOT for doctors – be divided into two different checks: one, a broad re-licensing check, will take place every five years to ensure that it is safe for the doctor to go on practising; the other, for specialist doctors and general practitioners, will be carried out by the professional regulatory bodies, and will examine the person's on-going competence in their specialist field. The White Paper says the structures for this specialist check will be introduced gradually and tested over time.

Anna Dixon said: 'It is important that working out how to implement the specialist checks to support recertification does not delay implementing the broader, more general, five-year checks, which need to be established very quickly.'

And she added: 'There remain challenges in implementing revalidation for professionals working in diverse settings. The proposed system of revalidation is employment-based, and relies to some extent on governance and management arrangements that are peculiar to NHS employees. Health care professionals work in a wide range of employment situations – from very large NHS teaching hospitals, through small businesses, such as opticians and pharmacists, to individual practitioners, such as chiropractors and osteopaths, and locums working for more than one employer. Greater clarity is needed about how all these different kinds of practitioners will be subject to the same standards of revalidation.'

Notes to editors: 

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; conferences, seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.
  3. The government's White Paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety: The regulation of health professionals in the 21st century, came about as a response to the inquiry into Dr Harold Shipman, conducted by Dame Janet Smith.
  4. The King’s Fund responded to the consultation carried out by Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, as he worked towards the new regulatory structures proposed in the White Paper. Consultation response: the future regulation of health and adult social care in England: a consultation on the framework for the registration of health and social care providers.
  5. The regulation of health professionals is currently devolved by the government to the professions in their own Councils. There are nine in total: the General Chiropractic Council (GCC); the General Dental Council (GDC); the General Medical Council (GMC); the General Optical Council (GOC); the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC); the Health Professions Council (HPC); the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC); the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI); and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB). In addition, the White Paper proposes the establishment of a General Pharmaceutical Council, which will also be part of the new regulatory arrangements.