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Health regulation: public protection or professional burden

LSBU hosted a live debate involving leading figures in health going head-to-head to discuss whether or not the burden of regulation outweighs the benefits
06 October 2016

A London South Bank University (LSBU) debate saw Jackie Smith, Chief Executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and Peter Carter, former Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing discuss the purpose of health regulation and the benefits and challenges that it brings.

The intent was to reflect on the current state of the regulatory framework for healthcare professionals in Great Britain, and to examine whether the benefit of the current stringent system has a justifiable impact on protecting the public. The event was chaired by Professor Warren Tuner, Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of the School of Health and Social Care at LSBU.

Dr Elaine Maxwell, Associate Professor School of Health and School Care at LSBU, explains:

“Healthcare professionals are required by statute to register with either the General Medical Council (GMC), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) or the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). In the case of the GMC and the NMC they must revalidate at regular intervals. When a practitioner’s fitness to practise is questioned, there can be lengthy delays in considering their cases.

“NHS bodies must also be registered with the Care Quality Commission and spend significant time and resources preparing for inspections but only  a minority of organisations receive an outstanding rating.”

Jackie Smith highlighted the need to agree on the real purpose of regulation to achieve a meaningful reform.

She said, “I believe effective professional regulation makes an important contribution towards maintaining public confidence in the nursing and midwifery professions. A gulf does exist between public expectations about the purpose of regulation and what legislation actually allows us to deliver.”

Jackie believes that the current system provides an important safeguard but is only part of the overall picture. She said, “Regulation can balance the needs of both the public and the professions, ensuring nurses and midwives meet the high standards we all expect while supporting best practice.”

On the other side, Peter Carter outlined his position that regulation will never be an alternative to effective performance management. Peter said, “The emphasis of regulation falls too much on the conduct of individual registrants as opposed to an equal focus on employers. The mindset must change and regulation should be an accompaniment, not a solution.”

Elaine added, “This was an important event to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of regulation and what an effective health regulation portfolio might look like.”

Find out more about our series of health debates and about studying at LSBU’s School of Health and Social Care.