The Professional Standards Authority says some proposals in the Government’s fitness to practise reform proposals will “inadvertently reduce public protection”.

In its formal response to the Department of Health and Social Care consultation, the PSA said that whilst it generally supports the principle of the reform proposals, it warned that “some areas we have concerns about proposals that could in our view inadvertently reduce public protection.”

Particular areas of support

The PSA said it particularly supported the following four areas:

  • advantages in giving the regulators new duties to co-operate with other regulators, and to be transparent and proportionate
  • the opportunity to achieve greater consistency in how registers work and the information made available to the public
  • the removal of the five-year rule that prevents taking forward complaints where events took place more than five years earlier
  • providing registrants and complainants with a less adversarial alternative to panel hearings, known as accepted outcomes. This will help to reduce the negative impacts on all involved and the money saved could be diverted to other things regulators do to prevent harm

Particular areas of support

The PSA however said that in particular, the following areas is of greatest concern to it:

  1. Oversight of accepted outcomes – A process through which ‘anyone’ could ask the regulator’s registrar to review a decision. The PSA said this proposal would “create a public protection gap” and instead “decisions of this gravity should continue to be subject to the Authority’s independent review.”
  2. Reducing the grounds for action – The PSA said this “will make it more difficult for regulators to restrict the practice of professionals with a health condition which impairs their ability to practise safely.”
  3. Oversight of rule-making – the proposal to give regulators more freedom to decide how they use the duties and powers they will be given in law, the PSA said whilst it support the principle of this, it is however “concerned that this could lead to processes that are expedient for regulators but do not protect the public.” In addition, this proposal “could also lead to major differences in regulators’ ways of working, creating a regulatory system which is harder for people to navigate and more fragmented.”

“Performance of regulators can deteriorate quickly but recover slowly.”

The PSA warned that what “the Government is planning to do through these reforms represents a significant change to how regulators work. Significant organisational change can increase risk.”

It noted that it is oversight role it has learnt that performance of regulators can deteriorate quickly but recover slowly and regulators that had previously been high-performing now have identifiable concerns.

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