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This week, Frances Patterson QC gave an early indication as to the likely outcome of the recent Law Commission Consultation on the future of the health and social care regulatory regime. Julie Norris was at the Lexis Nexis Disciplinary Law Conference and can report on what is likely to be contained in the new consolidating Act. Regulators planning their activities over the next few years may wish to read on…
You may remember our report on the responses to the Consultation published in February. Much has happened since then and the final report of the Law Commission is due for publication in February 2014. After that, all indications are that a new Healthcare Bill will go before Parliament at the last session next May with the new regulatory framework coming onto the statute book by the close of 2014/early 2015.
The Law Commission has big ideas for the shape of the regime created under the new consolidated statue. Its vision is that the new Act will bring about a culture of cooperation and consistency between regulators, with “high level principles” that will facilitate a more “enlightened approach” to regulation. The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) was praised and will remain, partly as a model for other regulators to aspire to.
Of course, it is too early to tell whether these laudable aims will be achieved in the provisions of the new Act. From what we are told, much that we know and recognise as being ‘good practice’ is set to remain, with the welcome introduction of consistency across the regimes as well as a renewed emphasis on working together to achieve the common aim of the overriding objective:
“the protection, promotion and maintenance of the health and safety and
well-being of the public.”
Perhaps the most surprising of all the probable reforms is the likely recommendation that voluntary registers be removed. Conversely, there were no surprises in the sweeping away of Section 60 Orders and the removal of the role of the Privy Council as the “post box for the Department of Health”. This should enable regulators to respond much more quickly and enable them to exercise more autonomy in the carrying out of their functions.
It is in the field of Fitness to Practise that most of the reforms will be focused:
This new Act, whatever its precise terms may be, will herald a new era in health and social care regulation. The question that looms large is whether this represents the thin end of the wedge. Will more commonality be sought; what about the rules of evidence; what about a single tribunal…
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