The Professional Standards Authority oversees the work of the professional regulators, but it has no powers to intervene directly in cases (save that where it considers the outcome of a fitness to practise hearing has been unduly lenient it may refer the case for consideration by the high court). The Law Commission is undertaking a review of the legislation applicable to the regulators with a view to producing a draft Bill containing proposals for reform. Within this it has consulted on proposals which would provide powers for joint working between the regulators. We supported these proposals and, subject to the outcome of the consultation, would wish to consider taking them forward at a suitable legislative opportunity. If implemented, it would be for the regulators to determine how they are used but they would potentially enable greater co-operation and, thereby, greater consistency between regulators in cases affecting more than one class of professional. The Law Commission’s consultation also included the possibility that regulators would be able to use these powers to share tribunal services for the determination of fitness to practice cases, although the full implications of this would need to be considered further.
The Law Commission published their Report and proposed draft Bill containing recommendations for reforming the regulation of healthcare professionals on 02 April 2014. This included a recommendation that any two or more regulators should be able to arrange for any of their respective functions to be exercised jointly. It also recommended that the Professional Standards Authority should be given a general function to promote co-operation between the regulators in relation to the performance of their functions.
The Government agrees legislation should empower regulators to look for ways in which they can work together and make best use of their respective skills and resources to better support public protection. The Government also agrees the Professional Stands Authority for Health and Social Care should have a specific role in promoting best practice in this respect, identifying opportunities for co-operation between the professional regulators and, as part of their annual performance review of each regulator, monitoring progress made towards this.
The Government response to the Law Commission was published on 29 January 2015 and legislation will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows.