Regulation of Health Care Professionals | Northern Ireland Law Commission
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Regulation of Health Care Professionals

This project is complete. The final report and draft Bill were published in April 2014. We have presented our recommendations to Government and await its response

This project was a review of the UK law relating to the regulation of health care professionals, and in England only, the regulation of social workers.

In the UK today, there are around 1.4 million health professionals working in 31 different professions governed by nine separate regulatory bodies. These include the General Medical, Dental and Optical Councils, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health Professions Council.

The job of the regulators is to keep professional registers, set standards for education and practice, and ensure that professionals are fit to practise. In doing so they must act in a way that promotes and protects the health, safety and well-being of the public. But they currently operate within a wide variety of legal frameworks that have evolved in different ways and at a different pace and were established long before devolution. This has led to a great deal of inconsistency in their powers, duties and responsibilities. In addition, the current system for approving rules is complex, expensive and anachronistic.

In the first joint enterprise between the Law Commission of England and Wales, the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Commission of Northern Ireland, (“the Commissions”) a consultation paper has been published on 1 March 2012 which reviews the UK law relating to health care professional regulation and in England only, the regulation of social workers. The Law Commissions sought views on how the regulation of health care professionals in the UK and social workers in England can be made clearer, simpler, more modern and more consistent.

The Commissions set out provisional proposals for the structure of a new legal framework across the UK and are seeking views on how a new framework would:

  • give the regulators increased flexibility in the use of their powers while ensuring their public accountability
  • enable the regulators to ensure proper standards of professional education, conduct and practice, and establish and maintain a register of professionals, and
  • place at its heart a duty on the regulators to protect the public

The provisional proposals in the consultation paper represented the Law Commissions’ initial view about how the law should be reformed.

The consultation period ran from 1 March 2012 until 31 May 2012.

The Law Commissions reviewed the initial proposals for reform in light of the responses received and representations made during the consultation period. An analysis of responses is available below.

Related documents
Report: Regulation of Health Care Professionals - NILC 18 (2014)
Joint Report Summary: Regulation of Health Care Professionals
ReportImpact Assessment: Regulation of Health Care Professionals
Joint Consultation Analysis
Consultation Paper: Regulation of Healthcare Professionals NILC 12 (2012)
Summary of Consultation Paper on Regulation of Health care Professionals
Regulation of Healthcare Professionals: Consultation on Equality Impact Screening Analysis