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Reshaping the regulation of health professionals

The regulation of health professionals is facing a period of transformation. The Department of Health has challenged health regulators to increase transparency and accountability while also reducing costs through a more proportional regulatory model.

This is happening at a time when the number of complaints that health regulators are dealing with continues to increase and when recent high-profile incidents involving health professionals demand a new approach to how professional and system regulators work together.

Health regulators need to respond by moving to a more proactive approach that protects patients across the whole system. Regulators can move to this model by maximising the use of the data they collect, collaborating more effectively with partners across the health system and modernising their internal practices.

Exploiting data on regulation

Health regulators have traditionally collected and stored functionally specific data with little sharing across their organisation. There are opportunities to identify trends and issues facing health professionals and institutions by reviewing and combining data across the regulatory functions (fitness to practise, education, registration) allowing for a more proactive identification of risks.

To use data in this way, health regulators must first understand the questions that need to be answered to identify higher-risk institutions or cohorts. They need to understand where there are gaps in the information currently available and whether it is possible to fill these from existing data they hold by improving systems, processes and analysis or identify whether additional information for effective regulation is required. Achieving better use of data will also require regulators to overcome significant challenges such as differences in taxonomies, security and quality.

Proactive regulation requires collaboration

Proactive regulation requires the open sharing of data between health regulators, particularly the professional and systems regulators. This will allow a complete picture of trends relating to patient safety to be developed across the health system. Data collection could also be rationalised with health regulators sharing core data sets (for example, employment information). However, data sharing is only one part of the solution for more proactive regulation. Health regulators need to decide how they will respond to data that identifies risks. This will require a change in their processes to enable system-wide interventions with regulators working together, as well as with employers, when risks are identified. 

The opportunity to change

The opportunity to move to more proactive, collaborative regulation is greater than ever. Embracing these changes now will not only mean progress for individual health regulators but will result in a more joined-up regulation of health professionals and a health system that is safer for patients of health care in the UK.

To find out how we can support your organisation in meeting its regulation challenges, please contact us now.  

Catharine Berwick
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Chris Steel
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