E-Regulator: Press Release Round-Up for May-June 2012

11 June 2012

General Medical Council (GMC)

From 11 June 2012, the GMC will launch the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), which will run all fitness to practise panel and interim orders panel hearings for the medical profession in the United Kingdom. 

The MPTS has been launched following the Government White Paper in 2007 and further consultation in 2010 which recommended greater separation between the GMC’s investigation and adjudication functions, and the Government’s decision to abolish the Office for Healthcare Professional Adjudicator (OHPA). 

The MPTS will be part of the General Medical Council, but operationally separate and accountable to Parliament. It is hoped that this will improve the public perception as to the impartiality, fairness and transparency of the hearing process.  

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

On 16 May 2012, it was decided that the SRA would consult with key stakeholders on the options available for changing its role in regulating authorised professional firms (APFs) now that some may choose to become alternative business structures (ABSs). 

Most law firms rely on an exemption and do not have to be regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), but instead comply with the SRA Financial Services (Scope) Rules 2001.  However, a small number of law firms are not exempt because they provide mainstream financial services to their clients, so are authorised by the FSA and the SRA as APFs.

The SRA has made it clear since 2009 that it will only regulate legal services.  That means that the non-legal activities of ABSs are not regulated by the SRA.  The SRA was concerned this would lead to a gap in regulatory protection for customers of such businesses. 

The SRA has been in discussion with the FSA on the issue and has formulated three options to address the situation:

  1. to bring ABS APFs into the regulatory model currently applicable to traditional APFs;
  2. to extend the current ABS approach to all APFs; and
  3. SRA regulation of non-mainstream activities, no SRA regulation of mainstream financial activities, across all firms.

The consultation on these options will take place over the next 12 weeks, ending on Friday 17 August.

Health Care Professions Council (HCPC)

On 25 May 2012, the HCPC provided a response to the Law Commission’s Joint Consultation on the Regulation of health care professionals, and the regulation of social care professionals in England. 

The HCPC expressed its view that the proposals strike the appropriate balance between flexibility for the regulators, consistency and accessibility of statutory regulation and appropriate scrutiny and oversight. In particular, they welcomed the proposal to increase the parliamentary accountability of the regulators. 

However, they expressed a concern that the proposals may in places lead to an unhelpful divergence of approach across the regulators. The HCPC highlighted areas where they considered it important for the statute to be prescriptive and for the regulators to be permitted less discretion than that proposed.

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

On 31 May 2012, the GPhC also provided a response to the Law Commissions' consultation on the regulation of health care professionals.

The GPhC stated that they support the aim of the review to create a new legal framework which enables regulation to adapt and provide flexible and responsive systems that protect public safety and promote high standards in professional practice.  However, they note that there are risks in moving away from the current model without ensuring there is clarity about the principles which should underpin a major reform process.

They stated that they would argue against any significant further change for the pharmacy professions which would have the potential to cause confusion as well as disruption and increased costs. They note that their Council is only recently established and it may be too early to identify specific governance issues and consider the case for further change.

Memorandum of Understanding (2 May 2012)

Regulators from the legal, financial and property sectors have signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding that will result in greater sharing of information. Signatories include the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board, Council for Licensed Conveyancers, ILEX Professional Standards Limited, Financial Services Authority, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

This is as a response to the changes in the legal services market, in particular the launch of alternative business structures (ABSs). Given that firms can operate under several regulators at once, it is hoped that the Memorandum of Understanding will ensure greater consistency of approach and regulation.

The stated purposes of the memorandum of understanding are to prevent external regulatory conflicts, to provide for the resolution of any external regulatory conflicts which arise and to prevent unnecessary duplication of regulatory provisions made by an external regulatory body. It hopes to provide a mechanism to resolve any overlaps in ways which provide the best form of consumer protection and redress, minimise confusion for market participants and reduce/remove conflict in the future.

The signatories agree to disclose information to one or other of the signatories to the memorandum where it is lawful and in the public interest to do so.

By Lucy Alicea

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