Proposed watchdog for health falls short

August 11, 2000

Government proposals for a new regulatory body for health professionals will not protect the public, say professional bodies.

The government plans to replace the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine (CPSM) and its 12 uni-professional boards with a Health Professions Council.

The new council will be streamlined, with greater lay involvement. It will have tougher powers to tackle poor professional conduct. Procedures for ensuring quality assurance on professional training will be simplified, with the establishment of an education committee containing one representative from each profession.

Hilary de Lyon, chief executive of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said: "The allied health professions forum (which represents about 150,000 National Health Service staff) has long been in favour of greater lay involvement, but it would be wrong to have just one member from each profession on regulatory committees."

She said that while there were certain matters that were generic to the professions, it was dangerous to the public to ignore the differences, for example, between speech and language therapists and podiatrists/chiropodists.

Peter Burley, deputy registrar at the CPSM, said: "The paragraphs on how uni-professional input might work are rather woolly. They do open the way for greater involvement for professional bodies."

The government has also put forward proposals to replace the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) and the four National Boards with a new Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The UKCC said: "We strongly support many of the proposals, such as the expansion of public involvement in the new council, staggered terms of office for council members, greater openness, more options for conduct committees and bigger fines for bogus practitioners."

However, the UKCC argued that the disciplinary process proposed could be unfair to practitioners and said that it was very expensive.

The Royal College of Nursing would have liked the NMC to regulate health-care assistants as well as nurses, midwives and health visitors.

The consultation period for both new bodies ends in October.

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