Care Minister Helen Whately told GP Online the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for simpler and more flexible professional healthcare regulation.

GP Online reported that Ms Whately said:

“Professional regulators did a brilliant job setting up emergency registers at a moment’s notice and thousands of former staff re-joined to help health and social care services respond to the new threat.”

However, she continued:

“The pandemic has shone a light on the need to be able to scale up and adapt the healthcare workforce… Yet this response required emergency legislation and policy making in close to real time. If we face a similar situation again; we could make it easier for everyone.”

Ms Whately’s comments follows a Government consultation launched last month setting out proposals to overhaul healthcare regulation in the UK. The consultation noted the UK model of regulation for healthcare professionals is rigid and complex and needs to change to better protect patients and service users, support our health services and to help the workforce meet future challenges.

She noted that there is considerable variation in the fitness to practise powers currently available to the regulators but the proposals “modernise each of the healthcare professional regulators’ legal frameworks, making them simpler and more consistent. This will enable regulators to provide public protection more efficiently and spend more time supporting the professional standards of all registrants.”

She said a more flexible legislation which includes “introducing emergency registration powers for all regulators so they can better respond to unexpected workforce challenges, such as the ongoing pandemic, without the need for further legislation which had to be brought in during the first wave.”

At the moment, the GMC and the General Pharmaceutical Council have these powers but legislation will grant emergency registration powers for all regulators of health professionals.

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