The British Dental Association (BDA) has called on the Government to issue a timetable on its plans to reform health regulation.
Today’s Queen’s Speech was devoid of references to reform of healthcare regulation, whilst in 2013, in the wake of the Francis Inquiry, the Prime Minster pledged to ‘sweep away’ the ‘outdated and inflexible’ law governing health regulators.
The call was supported by professional associations, trade unions and the healthcare regulators themselves and so the UK Law Commissions subsequently produced a draft bill on reform of healthcare regulation, but it has not secured any parliamentary time.
‘Britain has over a million regulated healthcare practitioners,’ Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association, said.
‘That regulation is meant to protect the public, but antiquated laws have come at cost, and not just in time and money.
‘It has hurt patients and practitioners, and it needs to change.
‘This government needs to make time to fix a broken system of regulation.
‘This isn’t rocket science.
‘The Law Commissions have already produced a draft bill that could represent at least a starting point.
‘The Department of Health has not been tasked with a single bill in this session, so let’s keep officials from twiddling their thumbs.
‘The Prime Minister made a pledge, and both patients and practitioners expect it to be honoured.
‘We call on the Government to set out a clear timetable.’
Health regulation: political inertia
- The Prime Minister, in his response to the Francis inquiry report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, promised action to ‘sweep away our outdated and inflexible framework’ facing healthcare regulators
- In the command paper Enabling Excellence, published in 2011, the Government acknowledged that the current legislative frameworks for all of the health and social care regulators are ‘expensive, complex and require continuous government intervention to keep them up to date’
- The Law Commissions of the four UK nations were tasked with compiling a Draft Bill on Health and Social Care Regulation, with the expectation of sweeping reform across all healthcare regulators. Published in May 2014, it did not feature in the June 2014 Queen’s Speech
- The BDA has called for sweeping reform of the General Dental Council (GDC), the statutory body responsible for regulating dental professionals in the UK. The GDC is currently the subject of a Professional Standards Authority (PSA) enquiry into the way it deals with whistle blowers. Another one was conducted last year into inappropriate processes within its Investigating Committee. It failed to meet two out of five standards for registration, and six (possibly seven) standards out of 10 for fitness to practise (FTP) in the PSA’s last annual performance report. The GDC has been criticised, by the PSA and by the profession, for not progressing FTP cases more swiftly, resulting in a large backlog and some cases taking in excess of 18 months to go to a hearing. It was called before a Commons Health Committee hearing earlier this year.