Skip to main content

Health Care Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers

Volume 523: debated on Wednesday 16 February 2011

Safe, respectful and effective care is essential and should be what all users of health and social care services experience.

The vast majority of those who work in health and social care are committed individuals with a strong sense of professionalism who aspire to deliver the highest standards. However, where there is poor practice or behaviour that presents a risk to the public, it is vital that swift action is taken, whether by employers, or by national regulatory bodies.

Ensuring a strong and effective system for regulating health and social care professionals is one of the cornerstones of our strategy for delivering improved outcomes for people who use health and social care services. The current system of professional regulation helps to ensure this by setting high standards of education, training, conduct and ethics and by taking action to remove unsuitable workers in the rare cases when things go wrong. Regulation of health care workers and social workers therefore makes an important contribution to safeguarding the public, including vulnerable children and adults.

However, the regulatory framework is also complex, expensive and requires continuous Government intervention to keep it up to date. More generally, reducing regulation is a key priority for the coalition Government. By freeing society from unnecessary laws, the Government aim to create a better balance of responsibilities between the state, business, civil society and individuals, and to encourage people to take greater personal responsibility for their actions.

While regulation of some professionals is vital to ensure high standards of care, it is only one component of a wider system of safeguards, controls and clinical governance and ultimate responsibility for the provision of high quality services must rest with employers and those contracting with health and social care workers. We believe that the approach to professional regulation must be proportionate and effective, imposing the least cost and complexity consistent with securing safety and confidence for patients, service users, carers and the wider public.

I have today laid before Parliament a Command Paper, “Enabling Excellence—Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers” (Cm 8008) setting out the Government’s proposals for how the system for regulating health care workers across the United Kingdom and social workers in England should be reformed, to sustain and develop the high professional standards of those practitioners and to continue to assure the safety of those using services and the rest of the public.

The reforms, many of which are being progressed through the Health and Social Care Bill, will give greater independence to those who work in health care across the UK and social care in England, to their employers, and to the professional regulatory bodies; balanced by more effective accountability in how they exercise that freedom.

We will seek to drive up standards for some groups of unregulated health and social care workers to improve service users’ experience through a system of assured voluntary registration. Employers and commissioners will be able to give preference to workers on voluntary registers to ensure that they contract with suitably skilled and qualified workers. In line with the Government’s overall social work reform programme, the proposals will also strengthen social work as a profession in England.

“Enabling Excellence—Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers” is available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.