Government seeks powers to deregulate healthcare professions and abolish regulators

Some groups are now worried that the powers to deregulate healthcare professionals could be used for political gain. 

Ian Snug
15 February 2021
Matt Hancock

Proposals could see radical changes to how healthcare professions are managed and accountability inside the health service.

The government is seeking the power to deregulate a healthcare profession and abolish regulators.

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According to a new white paper published last week, the Government is seeking “the power to remove a profession from regulation” and “the power to abolish an individual health and care professional regulator”.

The Integration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all paper states that “statutory regulation should only be used where it is necessary for public protection” and “regulatory oversight for each profession should be proportionate to the activity carried out and the risks to patients, service users and the public”.

It continues; “the landscape of the health and social care workforce is not static, and risks will change over time as practices, technology, and roles develop. While statutory regulation may be necessary now for a certain profession, over time the risk profile may change, such that statutory regulation is no longer necessary

“A provision to enable the removal of a profession from statutory regulation through secondary legislation will make it easier to ensure that the protections and regulatory barriers that are in place remain proportionate for all health and care professions”.

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On regulators, it adds that a reduction in the number of healthcare regulators “would deliver public protection in a more consistent way” and deliver “financial and efficiency savings”.

Political gain.

While the guidance states that while “the vast majority of professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists and paramedics will always be subject to statutory regulation”, some are worried the proposed new powers could be used for political gain or to strongarm statutory regulators.

In a statement to Parliament, Matt Hancock sells the paper as a way of the NHS moving towards “better integration and less burdensome bureaucracy” while building the “foundations for a health and care system which is more integrated”.

Anthony Johnson, Lead Organiser for the grassroots campaigning group Nurses United UK has admitted they are worried the powers could be used to “redefine” a registered nurse.

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In a statement, he says; “I think we all know that it’s unsurprising that this government would choose to erase different professional regulators.

“How else are they supposed to hit their target of 50,000 more nurses other than redefining what a ‘Registered Nurse’ actually is?

“This Government needs to listen to their voters, who trust nurses, not politicians, and invest in policies to recruit and retain us such as a 15% pay rise.”

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