The Department of Health (DH) is consulting on whether to merge the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) with other regulators, reducing the number of regulatory bodies from nine to ‘three or four’.
Nursing In Practice first reported that a merger was likely in February this year.
In its consultation paper, Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation, published today (31 October), the DH claims that a reduction in the number of regulators would deliver ‘a more consistent approach to regulation, as well as delivering savings in the cost of regulation,’ citing evidence that suggests efficiencies begin to accrue when a regulatory body has a registrant base of 100,000 to 200,000 people. Of the nine regulators in operation, five have less than 100,000 registrants.
It states: ‘Fewer regulators would bring greater consistency of standards and in the fitness to practise decision-making process, achieving a fairer outcome for all. In addition fewer, larger regulatory bodies would be able to engage more effectively with all four of the UK governments.
There is a case for passing on at least some of the savings to registrants in the form of lower fees, in addition to investing in work to support professionalism.’
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The DH is also looking to give regulators a greater range of powers when it comes to dealing with fitness to practise cases. The merger would allow all of the regulators the flexibility to choose how to deal with individual cases, from taking no action to imposing conditions on the practitioner’s registration.
The new proposals also suggest that some regulators are duplicating the work of higher education institutes by having a ‘detailed oversight of the course’. Instead, the regulators will ensure higher education institutes simply produce ‘high quality professionals who are suitable for registration’.
NMC chief executive and registrar, Jackie Smith, said: ‘I’ve made no secret of the urgent need for regulatory reform. Our current legislation is woefully outdated; it is a barrier to us becoming the modern and dynamic regulator we want to be.
‘At the moment we are entirely reliant on the Government for adapting our legislation in response to changing external circumstances – a process that can often take years to achieve.
‘We need a much more flexible approach to regulation, enabling us to meet the demands and expectations of a rapidly changing health and care landscape while continuing to ensure openness and transparency.
‘This consultation is a welcome step in the right direction but Government must ensure that they press ahead with the changes that are so desperately needed to ensure that we have legislation which will enable us to properly protect the public in the years to come.’