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General Medical Council reform

23 May 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 10

The government is to overhaul the legislative framework governing regulated health and care professionals in the UK. This presents a rare and important opportunity to implement comprehensive reforms that will enhance the system of professional regulation, support the health and care workforce and, above all else, safeguard patient and public safety.

The regulatory framework for health professionals in the UK is rigid and complex and needs to change. In 2021 this prompted calls for reform to enhance patient protection, support health services and equip the workforce to tackle future challenges effectively. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched a consultation, and the response to that, Regulating Healthcare Professionals, Protecting the Public, was published in 2023 (DHSC, 2023).

The role of regulatory bodies is to protect healthcare users from health risks and ensure that programmes of study that prepare health professionals for practice are fit for purpose. The case for reforming professional regulation has long been acknowledged. The DHSC (2023) cites the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of the inflexibility of certain regulatory bodies' primary and secondary legislation. For example, during the emergency, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) lacked the authority to temporarily register individuals or groups to aid in responding to the crisis.

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