E-Regulator: Press round-up - August 2012

2 August 2012

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

On 1 August 2012, the Health Professions Council changed their name to the Health and Care Professions Council. This change has been brought about by the provisions of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which will see the HCPC take on the regulation of social workers from the General Social Care Council (GSCC). The HCPC is now responsible for the regulation of 16 independent health and care professions. Mark Seale, the HCPC’s Chief Executive commenting on the regulation of social workers, said:

“The HCPC has more enhanced and widespread powers than the GSCC. The HCPC can investigate concerns raised about social workers in England, and, in the most serious cases, can suspend a social worker in England, whilst an investigation is carried out. The HCPC can also consider more grounds for complaints which will be new for social workers, including lack of competence and have a wider range of sanctions, including suspensions orders which are reviewed by a panel. HCPC can also impose conditions of practice orders and have powers to demand information from employers and others if needed for a hearing, something that was not available under GSCC.”

Physiotherapists and Podiatrists to gain prescribing powers
On 24 July 2012, the Department of Health announced that medicines legislation will be amended to allow independent prescribing responsibilities to be extended to appropriately trained chiropodists/podiatrists and physiotherapists. The amendments to the legislation will be laid in the Autumn. It is expected that the first practitioners will be eligible to enroll in approved independent prescribing education programmes in Autumn 2013. Practitioners will need to pass the course in order to become annotated as independent prescribers on the HCPC’s register.

The new Surveillance Camera Commissioner and his code: Creating clarity or causing confusion?

The provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which establish a new Surveillance Camera Commissioner charged with issuing a new code of practice were brought into force on 1 July 2012. The code will relate to any form of closed circuit cameras or automatic number plate recognition used by local authorities, councils and the police. Although relevant authorities "must have regard" to the code, a breach does not give rise to criminal or civil liability. Rather, the only stated consequence for breaching the code is for any court to take a breach "into account" in determining any question in civil or criminal proceedings. The new Commissioner is responsible for "encouraging compliance" with the code, without reference to any underpinning regulatory scheme to ensure compliance. Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner's Office already has in place comprehensive guidance concerning the issues which all organisations operating CCTV should consider with respect to the Data Protection Act 1998. The Home Office consultation concerning the content of the new code was undertaken in 2011 and therefore, those responsible for these new arrangements now face the daunting task of devising a clear and cohesive scheme which improves practice and increases public confidence in the operation of surveillance cameras. Given the limited remit and force of the code and lack of clarity in relation to the role of the new commissioner, in particular with respect to the role of the existing Information Commissioner and Surveillance Commissioner, this is likely to be a challenge.

The General Medical Council (GMC) issues revised guidance on child protection

On 10 July 2012, the GMC issued advice to doctors to help them better protect children who are at risk of harm; Protecting children and young people: the responsibilities of all doctors. Doctors who take action to protect children from abuse or neglect will be protected by the GMC even if they are wrong, providing concerns are deemed "reasonable". The guidance states: "It is vital that all doctors have the confidence to act if they believe that a child or young person may be being abused or neglected.” A two-year long working group chaired by senior family judge the Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe produced the guidance after hearing evidence from a range of child protection experts. UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS has welcomed the guidance saying that it will serve to give doctors "clarity and confidence".

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) appoints a new Chair

On 31 July 2012, the NMC appointed Mark Addison as their new Chair. He will take up the post in the autumn and the appointment will initially be for 18 months. He joins the NMC from his previous role as a non-executive Director at the National Archives. Prior to that role he held a number of senior positions in the civil service including the Crown Prosecution Service where he was the Chief Executive from 1998 to 2001. Commenting on the appointment, Mark Addison said: “Addressing the findings of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence report will be a big challenge. But that report makes clear that the organisation is moving in the right direction and that the staff have the ability and motivation to manage these changes and emerge stronger. That gives a strong platform on which to build.”

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is looking to appoint new Council members

The GPhC is due to launch a recruitment campaign this September in order to fill eight vacancies on its governing council. The GPhC has a 14 member council; seven of which are lay people and the remainder are registered pharmacy professionals. There will be four vacancies for pharmacy professionals (who must be pharmacists or pharmacy technicians registered with the GPhC), and four vacancies for lay members. At least one of the appointees (either lay or registrant) must live or work in Wales. The campaign will be advertised on the GPhC website.

Melinka Berridge

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