Press Round-Up: Regulatory and Professional Discipline: July – August 2015

30 July 2015

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

Bar Standards Board (BSB)

  • Consultation paper launched in current training to become barrister: On 10 July 2015, the BSB launched a consultation paper to consider the strengths and weaknesses in the current academic (law degree or conversion course), vocational (Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and pupillage stages of training require to become a barrister.  The BSB is seeking responses to its consultation paper, which closes on 30 October 2015.  The regulator intends to form a final view on one or two of the approaches outlined in this consultation, after all responses have been received.  A further consultation will be issued in spring of 2016, once a firmer view on how best to address these complex issues has been formed. This is why all interested parties are urged to share their views now; these issues cannot be addressed in isolation.
  • Proposals to reform disciplinary tribunal system: On 7 July 2015, in an open consultation, the bar regulator is seeking views on proposals to reform the disciplinary tribunal system.  The Disciplinary Tribunal Regulations (found at Part 5B of the BSB Handbook) set out the powers and functions of Disciplinary Tribunals who are responsible for deciding whether a barrister (or a BSB-authorised entity) has committed professional misconduct.  The Bar Standards Board's (BSB) Professional Conduct Department has recently undertaken a review of the Disciplinary Tribunal Regulations, and produced a revised set of Regulations.  A consultation paper, summarising and explaining the proposed revisions, has been published along with the proposed revised Regulations.  Anyone interested in contributing to the consultation should send their response to Siân Mayhew, at Responses can also be provided by phone with prior arrangement (please call 0207 611 1444).

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

  • The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced on 17 July 2015 that Martin Wheatley is to stand down as Chief Executive with effect from 12 September 2015.  Mr Wheatley will continue to act as an adviser to the FCA Board until January 31 2016 with a particular emphasis on the implementation of the Fair and Effective Markets Review, which he co-chaired.  Tracey McDermott will be taking over as Acting Chief Executive from 12 September while the search for a permanent Chief Executive takes place.

General Medical Council (GMC)

  • A major independent evaluation has been launched to help shape the future of revalidation:  Almost 160,000 licensed doctors will be asked to undertake a survey about the revalidation process to help researchers assess where improvements need to be made.  Last year the GMC commissioned a UK-wide collaboration of researchers (UMbRELLA) to carry out the evaluation.  The views of doctors are being sought this month and will be followed by interviews with senior NHS staff and feedback from patients.  The findings of the research are expected to be published in 2018.
  • New consultation on credentialing: The GMC is consulting on a new process called credentialing. This means that a doctor who has been awarded a credential in a particular field of practice will have this recorded in their entry on the medical register which shows they have the appropriate standards of knowledge and skills.  There are 16 questions in the consultation document. You do not have to answer all of the questions if you prefer to focus on specific issues.  The consultation is open until 4 October 2015, which can be found on the GMC website.
  • New time limits proposed for how long sanctions on a doctor’s registration are published online or made available to the public:  The General Medical Council (GMC) is proposing to introduce time limits for how long sanctions on a doctor’s registration are published online or made available to the public. Under current rules, when a doctor receives a sanction the outcome is published on the GMC’s website and disclosed to anyone who asks. It remains online indefinitely even after any restrictions have been lifted. This includes details of doctors who have been suspended, had restrictions on their practice, agreed undertakings such as retraining or been erased from the medical register altogether.
  • The GMC is proposing new time limits depending on the sanction imposed and whether the doctor is still practising. Under these proposals, for example, a doctor who has been suspended and is still registered would have their sanction published for 20 years, after which it would no longer be made available online or disclosed to the public.  The GMC’s website includes sanctions placed on a doctor’s registration following fitness to practise investigations from 2005 onwards when electronic records were introduced. Older sanctions, while not published online, are available on request.
  • The GMC is now proposing to transfer online all sanctions given to doctors for complaints arising between 1994 to 2005, where the doctor is still registered, to give patients more information about their doctors.  Of course publication of these sanctions will also be subject to time limits to make sure that they are only published for as long as it is in the public interest to do so.  The consultation also includes proposals to make decisions clearer in cases where a doctor has appealed a sanction or agreed undertakings.  The consultation will run until 23 September and responses can be sent through the GMC’s website. The results of the consultation will be published in February 2016 and new policies introduced in August 2016.

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPHC)

  • GPhC seeks views on new investigating committee guidance: The GPhC has launched a consultation on new guidance for the investigating committee to use when deciding what outcome is appropriate in a fitness to practise case. ‘Good decision making: investigating committee meetings and outcomes guidance’ explains the role of the investigating committee and how it decides whether a case should be considered by the fitness to practise committee.  The GPhC wants to hear from pharmacy professionals, representative bodies, patients and committee members themselves, to get their views on the guidance.  The investigating committee operates independently of the GPhC but must take account of guidance produced by the GPhC to support consistent, fair and proportionate decision-making.  This guidance is aimed at everyone who is involved in an investigating committee meeting, has made a complaint about a registrant or has had a complaint about them referred to an IC meeting. This includes GPhC staff, IC members, registrants and their representatives. It will also be useful to anyone who is interested in the fitness to practise process, including patients and their representatives.

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

  • New Chair of Council announced:  Elaine Buckley has been appointed as the new Chair of the HCPC. Elaine officially takes up post on 1 July 2015 when she takes over from current Chair Dr Anna van der Gaag, CBE who ends her term of office after nine years.  Elaine Buckley is a qualified physiotherapist and HCPC registrant. Elaine is currently the Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing at Sheffield Hallam University where she provides academic leadership within the Faculty and wider University in the areas of academic quality and enhancement. Elaine is a HCPC Council member and has worked as an HCPC partner for 10 years assessing overseas applications and sitting on the conduct and competency panels.
  • HCPC publishes Standards for podiatric surgery: The new HCPC standards for podiatric surgery set out requirements for programmes delivering training in podiatric surgery, as well as the knowledge and skills necessary for safe and effective podiatric surgery practice.  Podiatric surgery, the surgical management of bones, joints and soft tissues of the feet and associated structures, is significantly beyond the scope of practice of a chiropodist or podiatrist at entry to the profession.  The HCPC will use the new standards to approve and monitor programmes delivering post-registration training in podiatric surgery.  Podiatrists who successfully complete an approved podiatric surgery programme will in the future have their entry on the HCPC Register ‘annotated’ or marked. The annotation will enable patients to check the HCPC Register to see if someone is qualified to perform podiatric surgery.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

  • PSA reports overall improvements in NMC performance:  The Professional Standards Authority for health and social care (PSA) performance review report praises important pieces of work the NMC did in 2014/2015, including the revised Code, tackling concerns about midwifery practice in Guernsey and meeting our target to conclude fitness to practise hearings more quickly.
  • Chief Executive and Registrar Jackie Smith welcomed the report:  “I am delighted that the PSA’s annual performance review recognises the improvements we have made and the good practice we have demonstrated in 2014-2015. We have met several more standards than last year, which is a considerable achievement.” “Although the report highlights good progress, we know there is still plenty to do and we are not complacent about that. Getting better in the interests of public protection and the professions is our ambition which we are committed to.” “We are in the best place we’ve ever been. Without the continued hard work and dedication of NMC staff we would not be able to make the consistent improvements reported by the PSA.”
  • NMC to consult on introducing language controls for EU trained nurses and midwives:  The NMC is consulting on new English language checks on nurses and midwives who trained in Europe.  Following recent changes to EU legislation, the NMC are now consulting on powers to require applicants to the register from the European Economic Area (EEA) to satisfy the NMC that they have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely and effectively in the UK.  The 12-week consultation began on 1 June.

Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA)

  • A Question of Trust: On 15 July 2015 the SRA launched a campaign asking for views on the professional standards expected of solicitors. The campaign "A question of trust" will involve the legal profession and the public in a wide-ranging discussion about what meeting professional standards means. The SRA has been cutting regulatory red tape for the last two years to free up the legal services market and enable growth across the sector.  Greater freedom means that the individual professional responsibilities are an increasingly important part of public protection. "A question of trust" will explore what those responsibilities and values mean, and what the profession and the public think should happen when a solicitor falls short of our standards.
  • The campaign runs until January next year. It will draw on surveys, interactive road shows, public meetings and a formal consultation in the autumn, providing every opportunity for people to contribute. Feedback from the campaign and consultation will be used in the development of a future SRA decision-making framework.  Further information on the campaign will appear on the SRA's website in due course.
  • Changes to separate business rule: the SRA has cut bureaucracy that restricts the way traditional law firms operate, by removing restrictions on solicitors having links with outside businesses.  Changes to the Separate Business Rule—which mean that solicitors can own or be connected to separate businesses providing non–reserved legal services—were agreed by the SRA Board at its meeting yesterday (Wednesday, 3 June). The original purpose of the Separate Business Rule was to prevent solicitors having links to separate businesses outside the remit of regulation.  The opening up of the legal market already allows other types of businesses to own law firms and deliver innovative services. By changing the Separate Business Rule, all law firms can own separate businesses, allowing them to compete on a level playing field with alternative business structures (ABSs). As part of the same package of reforms, the rules on what activities can be undertaken within solicitors firms have been relaxed, making it easier for those firms to create one-stop shops for professional services.
  • The changes need the approval of the Legal Services Board. If agreed, they will be part of Version 15 of the Handbook when it goes live on 1 November.
  • Sole practitioner authorisation changes: the SRA have been working for some time to secure the legislative change needed to bring our processes for authorising sole practitioners in line with all other firms (Go to our policy statement).  That change is now in place, and will take effect from this autumn. There is an endorsement procedure in place at the moment, which means a solicitor may not practise as a sole practitioner unless they have a "sole solicitor endorsement" on their practising certificate (PC).
  • This endorsement has to be renewed every year, in contrast to other firms which go through a one-off authorisation application process rather than an annual endorsement. This endorsement procedure is no longer required.  Sole practitioners renewing their PC in October will be issued with a practising certificate without an endorsement, as is the case for managers (partners etc.) at other type of firms. To renew your practising certificate and pay your periodical fee you will be asked to complete the same application as previous years.  Following the renewal exercise, you will be issued with a Certificate of Authorisation. Further information for sole practitioners will follow nearer the PC renewal exercise.

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