The Professional Standards Authority is the UK’s super-regulator, responsible for ensuring the UK’s healthcare regulators meet standards of good regulation.  This in turn, impacts on health can care professionals who are indirectly affected by these standards of good regulation.

The PSA is now proposing changes to the way it undertakes performance reviews.  During these reviews, questions asked of healthcare regulators include:

  • How does a regulator make sure their registrants continue to be fit to practise?
  • What steps do regulators take to quality-assure education and training programmes?
  • Has the time it takes for a regulator to deal with a complaint about a potentially risky registrant increased?

Why are changes proposed?

The PSA said, on its website, “We want to make sure we learn from things when they do go wrong. In recent years, there have been failings in health and social care, which have had significant impact on patients, services users and their families. Not only do these affect individuals and their families – they can have a wider impact on public confidence and trust. Recent public inquiries have identified failings at the regulators or in the regulatory system itself.”

What might change?

Thing gone wrong include “that the regulators’ processes were not effective in addressing the public protection concerns identified to them, either to prevent harm or take early action when they were discovered. There have also been concerns about regulators’ internal processes and how they communicate.”

Moving forward, the PSA is proposing, amongst other things, Improved engagement with stakeholders including registrants and representative bodies.  This will be a significant change to the current approach where the focus is principally on engagement with regulators.

Moving forward, registrants could expect to play a more prominent role in PSA performance reviews by having direct access to PSA inspectors.  The PSA said “We understand that registrants and members of the public often have direct experience of how a regulator is operating, giving them a better idea about what’s working well and what isn’t. We want to make sure we’re connecting with the right people and that this information is informing our assessment of the regulators.”

Thematic reviews

PSA are also recommending “thematic reviews” that would provide additional tools to the performance reviews and would help see risk across the regulatory system, understand potential regulatory failings, as well as to support learning and development across the sector. At the moment, the PSA are only looking at individual regulators, thematic reviews would draw information together from several of the regulators to help us see the bigger picture.

The improved engagement with registrants and representative bodies could play an important role in “thematic reviews”.  Commonly held views by registrants and representative bodies from various sectors across the health and care spectrum will inform emerging themes and the potential for more wholesale regulatory change.

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