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NHS: Medical Regulation

Volume 684: debated on Friday 14 July 2006

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Patricia Hewitt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Shipman inquiry, chaired by Dame Janet Smith, examined the circumstances surrounding the murders of some 250 patients by Dr Harold Shipman, a general practitioner.

Following the publication of The Shipman Inquiry: Fifth report in December 2004, which was highly critical of the General Medical Council and the broader arrangements for medical regulation, my noble friend the Minister of State, the Lord Warner, commissioned a review. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Health elected to conduct a parallel review of the arrangements in place for the regulation of the other healthcare professions in order to provide consistency of approach and in recognition of the blurring of traditional job roles in healthcare.

The review of medical regulation was conducted by Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England. His report, Good doctors, safer patients, is published today, along with the parallel departmental review of non-medical regulation. Both reports focus upon the protection of the interests and safety of patients.

Good doctors, safer patients is a rigorous and thorough report, taking into account systems of regulation in other high-risk industries, systems in operation in other jurisdictions and the views of the profession and the public. It is the first comprehensive review of medical regulation for over 30 years. There are 44 recommendations. The parallel review of non-medical regulation followed a similar process.

Among the key themes raised in the two reports are: changes to the governance and accountability of the professional regulators; the importance of operationalised standards against which to regulate; the appropriate legal standard of proof; the introduction of an independent adjudicator; a spectrum of revalidation across all clinical professions; and devolution of some regulatory powers to the local level. Professional regulation is a complex area. I very much welcome the publication of these reports and the authoritative contribution that they make.

Today, I am announcing a period of consultation on the proposals put forward by the Chief Medical Officer in Good doctors, safer patients, and upon the options outlined in the parallel review of non-medical regulation. As regulation of most professions is a matter reserved to Westminster, comments on the reports are invited on a UK-wide basis. Matters relating to specific devolved Administrations may be copied to the appropriate Administration. Both reports are accompanied by initial regulatory impact assessments. Copies of the reports have been placed in the Library.