Healthcare science and professional regulation

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Janet Monkman, CEO of the Academy for Healthcare Science shares her views on the future and clarity of regulation.

Have you noticed that there is so much happening in the world of science? A day barely goes by without an announcement about some new innovation that will improve lives or make a difference to millions of people, for example in genomics or personalised medicine. Those working in health or social care will be familiar with this work and will also be looking at how to meet an increasing demand for scientific services, to align with a healthcare system offering increased access for patients for diagnostic services and a responsive service for diagnosis within 28 days.

Patients’ expectations of our healthcare services and its staff don't diminish. This is highlighted in the duty of candour that is now expected, so what caught my eye was the recently published thought paper that was released by the Professional Standards Authority. In this, Harry Cayton CEO looks at the current UK regulation system that has been operating for many years and asks if it is fit for purpose. He describes some alternatives to the current approach and is encouraging professionals to consider if the current system needs to be changed to make it fit for the future.

It is critical for us to ensure that patients and the public have assurance about the people who provide a service to them, an understanding that they will be practising at a certain standard and that they will have received accredited education, training, continuing professional development and re-validation on a regular basis.

In a healthcare system that needs to be responsive and flexible, it is also essential that regulation of the workforce doesn't provide a layer of inflexibility resulting in employers finding ways to work around it, thereby increasing the risk to patients.

Considering that duty of candour and regulation of the workforce are so closely interrelated, it’s surprising to note that although there are regulation systems and processes to protect patients, many people are unaware that regulation exists beyond doctors and nurses. Currently professional regulation is a landscape that to the uninitiated can be difficult to navigate and misunderstood. I would recommend that this is a debate every professional should care about, every employer should be clear about and every patient should have access to.

The current professional regulation system has not always protected patients in the way I'm sure we all thought it would. As healthcare is changing, isn't it now time to make sure that what we have is fit for the future?

Janet Monkman
Academy for Healthcare Science CEO

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