The Department of Health (DH) expects to launch a consultation on whether the existing nine health regulators should merge into a single body.
This would mean that over one million healthcare staff would be overseen by the same regulator, which could potentially result in changes to standards, fitness to practise, and fees.
This possibility is just one of several proposals to reform healthcare regulation that will be consulted on during 2017.
Another possibility will be to merge the NMC with the General Medical Council (GMC) into a core regulator, with one separate body to regulate “high street” health such as pharmacists and opticians, and a third body to regulate other professions like podiatrists and physiotherapists.
It has been estimated that a merge could save 15-18% of the £200m annual cost of regulation, which equates to a saving of £30-36m a year.
“Reform is vital”
The Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which oversees the nine healthcare regulators, agrees that reform is “vital”.
Director of standards and policy, Christine Braithwaite said: “Professional regulation is out of step with modern healthcare. In our paper Regulation Rethought, we suggest regulators should consider sharing functions and merging, if savings can be made for registrants.
“We recommend that health professionals should meet common standards, in keeping with multi-disciplinary care today. We also recommend the creation of a single, shared public register instead of nine separate ones, to make it easier for the public and employers to access it.”