Press Round-Up: Regulatory and Professional Discipline - April - May 2015

28 May 2015

NB: All information correct at time of publication and can be found on the individual regulator’s websites.

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

  • From 1 April 2015, the HCPC will require all new applicants to the Register to complete a professional declaration stating that they have suitable professional indemnity arrangements in place. This has already been a requirement for all HCPC registrants (except social workers in England), as a condition of their registration since 17 July 2014. The HCPC has stated its intention to incorporate a similar professional declaration as part of the renewal process for those already HCPC registered, from June 2015.
  • The HCPC has published their Education Annual Report for 2014. This provides an overview and analysis of the key trends in the HCPC’s approval and monitoring processes during the  2013-2014 academic year. These processes ensure compliance of HCPC approved programmes with the HCPC’s standards of education and training. A copy of the report is available on the HCPC website.
  • The HCPC has launched a consultation on its draft revised Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics. The purpose of the consultation is to ensure that the Standards continue to be: “fit for purpose, up-to-date and well understood by registrant’s and the public”. The consultation closes on 26 June 2015. The HCPC anticipate that the new standards will be in place in early 2016.

General Medical Council (GMC)

  • On 1 April 2014, the GMC introduced a new time limit of three years and 30 days (1, 125 days in total) for which doctors can hold provisional registration. Provisional registration is granted solely in order to allow a doctor to participate in the first year of the foundation programme (F1). Previously, doctors were able to hold provisional registration indefinitely. Doctors taking part in training on a part time basis will be able to apply for an additional period of time of up to a year to complete their training programme. In the event a doctor has not completed their training within the time limit their provisional registration will expire and they will be unable to apply for it again in the UK.
  • On 24 April 2015, the GMC published the findings of research into potential improvements to the online medical register. The research sought the views of doctors, patients, employers, educators and other regulators through surveys, workshops and interviews. The findings of the research include that:
  1. The GMC’s register offers limited information compared with some other jurisdictions;
  2. While the majority of current users are professional stakeholders (for example doctors, employers and educators) and the register meets many of their needs in its current form, it needs to carry more information in order to meet the needs of patients and the public; and
  3. The online register has not kept pace with the recent expansion of the GMC’s functions (for example, postgraduate education and revalidation).

The findings of this research will be evaluated further and later in 2015 there will be an opportunity for stakeholders to share their views on more concrete proposals and options for future development as part of a wide-ranging consultation.

  • On 14 May 2015, the GMC published the findings of a survey examining the values of UK medical students. Over 2,500 medical students participated in the survey and the report shows broadly that most students have an understanding of professionalism which the GMC would expect of future doctors. The report also found that:
  1. Female students are more likely to view unprofessional behaviour as unacceptable than male students;
  2. There is some variation by year of study – e.g. first year students are more likely to view buying prescription-only drugs online to aid study as unacceptable than those in other years; and
  3. More students think it is acceptable or mostly acceptable to dodge a train fare than it is to be critical of a lecture or lecturer on social media.

The GMC are currently working with the Medical School Council to review the guidance provided to medical students and medical schools on fitness to practise and professionalism.

General Dental Council (GDC)

  • The GDC have confirmed that ‘safeguarding children and young people’ and ‘safeguarding vulnerable adults’ are to be included as recommended continuing professional development (CPD) topics for dental professionals. The GDC’s intention is to increase awareness within the profession of the importance of these topics in order to equip dental professionals with the confidence to raise any concerns about the potential abuse or neglect of vulnerable people. The GDC’s guidance on CPD requirements for dental professionals has been updated to reflect the additional topics, and can be downloaded from the GDC website.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

  • On 31 March 2015, the NMC published its revised Code of Professional Standards. Jackie Smith, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said: “We last changed the Code seven years ago. Since then, the way that care is delivered has changed; public expectations have changed; and key reports like the Francis Inquiry have permanently altered the healthcare landscape. The revised Code reflects modern needs.” The NMC have stated that the Revised Code is central to revalidation, which the NMC is launching in October 2015. In addition to the Code, the NMC has also updated its guidance for nurses and midwives on raising concerns and has issued new guidance on the responsible use of social media.
  • The NMC has welcomed a change to legislation which will protect student nurses and midwives from retaliation or victimisation when they raise concerns. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 enables nurses and midwives to make ‘protected disclosures’ to the NMC and other organisations. From 6 April 2015, student nurses and midwives who are in practice settings as part of their education programmes will be given the same level of protection. The NMC Code, which came into effect on 31 March 2015, is clear about nurses’ and midwives’ responsibility to raise concerns they have about patient safety and act on concerns raised to them. In addition they must not obstruct, intimidate or victimise those who wish to raise concerns.

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

  • The GPhC has published new guidance which sets out the key areas that need to be considered by registered pharmacies which provide services at a distance. Every pharmacy that provides a service such as electronic prescriptions, a collection and delivery service or an internet pharmacy service will be expected to follow the guidance. Key areas for consideration include risk assessments, regular audits and managing websites. It is hoped the guidance will help ensure that pharmacy services and the sale or supply of medicines are safe in those instances where patients may not have face to face interaction with a pharmacy professional.
  • The GPhC has launched a discussion paper on patient-centred professionalism as part of a wider conversation with patients, the public and pharmacy professionals about what patient-centred professionals means to them. It is hoped that the outcomes of this conversation will inform the GPhC’s review of its Standards of Conduct, Ethics and Performance. The paper asks a number of questions, including:
  1. What characteristics does someone who is professional and patient-centred demonstrate?
  2. What are the barriers and enablers to patient-centred professionalism?
  3. Which examples of professionalism best illustrate what patient-centred professionalism is all about?

Those wishing to provide responses to the questions outlined in the discussion paper are invited to complete the survey on the GPhC’s website by Friday 26 June 2015. Individuals can also take part in the discussion on twitter using the hashtag #professionalism4patients.

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

On 1 April 2015, the SRA published Version 13 of its Handbook. The SRA’s Competence Statement, which defines the standards required for a solicitor to practise, is among important changes to the Handbook. The Competence Statement is considered to be a key part of the SRA’s new approach to continuing competence for solicitors who wish to adopt it from 1 April on a voluntary basis. A toolkit to support solicitors who want to adopt the new approach on a voluntary basis has also been launched on the SRA website. Every solicitor will be expected to adopt the new approach from 1 November 2016. Other major changes in Version 13 of the Handbook include:

  1. Changes to the SRA Compensation Fund Rules 2011 and the SRA Handbook Glossary 2012;
  2. A new outcome which requires firms to assess and purchase an appropriate level of professional indemnity insurance and changes to the Minimum Terms and Conditions of cover (Appendix 1 of the SRA Indemnity Insurance Rules 2013);
  3. Removal of transitional provisions relating to sole practitioners, ahead of changes to be made in November 2015 whereby sole practitioners will no longer require an annual endorsement on their PC; and
  4. New rules enabling entities owned or managed by Registered European Lawyers (RELs) to be able to operate within England and Wales without necessarily needing to do so through an SRA authorised body.
  • On 16 April 2015, the SRA published a consultation including a mix of suggested amendments to the Handbook, the removal of potentially unnecessary rules, and points for discussion. The proposals are included in the consultation document "Improving Regulation: proportionate and targeted measures". The most recent proposals put forward by the SRA are hoped to reduce the regulatory burden on law firms. They include:
  1. Simplifying compliance officer approval for small firms (1-4 managers);
  2. Simplify candidate declaration and notification processes;
  3. Remove the requirement for firms to carry out reserved legal activities;
  4. ABS authorisation - operational changes and improvements;
  5. Changes to insolvency rules;
  6. Alternatives to client accounts;
  7. Guidance on recording of non-material breaches;
  8. Clarification on the outsourcing of legal and operational functions;
  9. Recording and reporting of diversity data; and
  10. The apprenticeship route to qualification.
  • The SRA have confirmed there will be no Keeping of the Roll exercise in 2015. Traditionally solicitors who do not hold a practising certificate have had to apply online to the SRA each year to keep their name on the Roll of Solicitors. However the SRA Board agreed last year to abolish the annual Keeping of the Roll exercise as part of its regulatory reform programme. The SRA now conducts the Keeping of the Roll exercise only when it considers it necessary to verify its data. This means solicitors no longer pay a £20 fee and complete an application each year to confirm that they wish to stay on the Roll.
  • The SRA has set up a specialist team dedicated to helping small firms needing advice and guidance on compliance issues following a promise in May 2014 to strengthen its relationship with smaller firms and offer greater support. The SRA has since:
  1. Created a small firms option for those calling the SRA's Ethics Guidance helpline;
  2. Launched a dedicated small firms page on its website;
  3. Published compliance guidance to help sole practitioners and two-to-four partner firms; and
  4. Held a webinar setting out the dedicated small firms support available.

The SRA's latest regulatory reform consultation includes proposals to make it easier for small firms to appoint compliance officers. Anyone from a small firm who wants to discuss key issues with the SRA and be involved in early, informal discussions on potential policy and operational changes can now join its virtual reference groups.

Bar Standards Board (BSB)

  • On 1 April 2015, the BSB published its 2015/2016 Business plan – setting out the key areas of work it will undertake in the new financial year. These include becoming a licensing authority for barrister-led businesses with non-lawyers as owners (known as Alternative Business Structures [ABSs]) and a review of the way in which it regulates immigration advice and services. The 2015/16 Business Plan outlines the BSB's five main development priorities and details the BSB’s future objectives.
  • On 15 April 2015, the BSB launched an open consultation suggesting that creating a Professional Statement to define what a newly authorised barrister should be able to do from “day one” could be the key to making qualification routes to the Bar more flexible and innovative. The Professional Statement - a central tenet of the regulator's Future Bar Training programme - would apply to all areas of practice and will consist of four elements: technical legal characteristics, personal values and standards, management of practice, and ability to work with others. The development of the Professional Statement addresses specific recommendations of the Legal Education and Training Review, which the BSB co-commissioned and which was published in October 2013.
  • On 11 May 2015, the BSB launched a consultation paper arguing that in serious instances of failure to comply with regulatory requirements, dishonesty, insolvency, or where otherwise necessary to protect the interests of clients, it should have statutory powers to take control of client files. This will enable the BSB to take action such as obtaining alternative representation for clients and securing any papers and assets that belong to them. The BSB envisages that such powers would be used in very rare circumstances, but may be necessary to protect the interests of clients.
  • The BSB is also seeking to put many of its existing regulatory powers on a statutory footing. These include the power to disqualify any individual from being employed by a business or person that comes under the regulator's remit. This would include lay people employed in a chambers or entity. Finally, the BSB is consulting on its arrangements for appeals against entity authorisation decisions. The current appeal route to the High Court was introduced as a temporary measure until the BSB could seek an order to make arrangements for such appeals to be heard by the First Tier Tribunal. The deadline for responding to the consultation is 31 July 2015. Responses are be sent to the BSB Regulatory Policy Department at

*all information correct at time of publication and can be found on the individual regulator’s websites.

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