Report on the Legislative Consent Motion Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill: Regulation of Health Care Professionals
Date: 21 January 2015
Purpose of the Legislative Consent Motion
Appendix 1 Legislative Consent Memorandum - Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, as laid on 18 December 2014
Appendix 2 Departmental Memoranda
Appendix 3 5 November 2014 - Hansard of the Oral Evidence Session with Departmental Officials
1. The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 2 July 2014 by Jeremy Lefroy MP and had its Second Reading on 7 November 2014. The Private Members’ Bill has now been committed to a Public Bill Committee for scrutiny.
2. The Bill has a wider patient safety theme that follows on from events at the former Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. In addition to a regulatory provision which will apply on a UK-wide basis, it includes three other patient safety-related measures that will apply to England only. It is intended that the regulatory provision in the Bill will apply on a UK-wide basis because, with the exception of pharmacy, the jurisdiction of the healthcare professional regulators affected is UK- wide.
3. The regulatory provision for healthcare professional regulators and the Professional Standards Authority introduces an overarching objective of public protection, with further objectives relating to public health and safety, public confidence in the profession, and proper professional standards of conduct, each with equal importance. In exercising their functions, regulators must have regard to those, for example, when handling complaints, disciplinary hearings and fitness-to-practice cases. Regulators' panels and committees dealing with fitness-to-practice issues will also have to have regard to the objectives. In practice, that should help regulators to respond more effectively in fitness-to-practice cases by being able to take timely and robust action which in turn will help to contribute to ensuring ongoing public confidence in the professional regulatory system.
4. The Committee received correspondence from the former Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Mr Edwin Poots, MLA, in July 2014, advising that a Legislative Consent Motion would be required in relation to two regulatory provisions in the Private Members’ Bill: the introduction of three objectives to ensure appropriate regulatory action by the regulators of health care professionals; and automatically erasing individuals tried and convicted of certain serious crimes from a professional register. A copy of the correspondence is attached at Appendix 2.
5. At its meeting on 5 November 2014, the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety received an oral briefing from Departmental officials on the proposed Legislative Consent Motion, the Hansard of which is attached at Appendix 3.
6. During the course of the briefing, officials advised the Committee that the Automatic Erasure provision, which was originally intended for inclusion in the Bill, had been removed as the complexities of amending the statutory framework for each of the regulators to allow them to introduce this measure would result in a Bill that is much longer and more complex than is usually acceptable for a Private Members’ Bill.
7. Officials also advised that the Department of Health in England had identified issues when applying the public protection objective measure to the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland because of its dual role as both regulator and the professional leadership organisation for the pharmacy profession.
8. The Committee recognised that the Society’s current objectives, as set out in the 1976 Pharmacy Order, are more reflective of a leadership and membership organisation rather than focused on public protection. Therefore, introduction of the proposed new public protection objective would represent a fundamental change to its objectives. It noted that the Pharmaceutical Society had not raised any objections to its exclusion from the Bill and recognised that a fundamental change to the Society's objectives would merit careful local consideration and consultation with stakeholders.
9. The Committee welcomed that the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety had recently agreed that officials should begin preparatory work to explore options for the future arrangements for the regulation of the pharmacy profession in Northern Ireland. This will include consideration of the Society's existing professional leadership role, and the exercise is aimed at providing assurance on arrangements for public protection, maintaining public confidence and upholding standards in the professional regulatory system.
10. Officials informed the Committee that, in addition to the Pharmaceutical Society, the Private Members’ Bill would not introduce the public protection objective for the General Medical Council as work on this issue was being carried out on a four-country basis through a different ongoing legislative vehicle.
11. Officials advised that, as the regulation of healthcare professionals is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, Executive approval had been sought for the Legislative Consent Motion. The Committee noted that the Department had also carried out an equality impact screening exercise of the provisions extending to Northern Ireland and no adverse impact had been identified in connection with any of the Section 75 categories.
12. Finally, the Committee noted that the regulation measure in the Private Members’ Bill was derived from a key recommendation made by the Law Commission following its recent Review of the Regulation of Healthcare Professionals; a Review which involved extensive consultation with over 100 organisations in Northern Ireland.
PURPOSE OF THE LEGISLATIVE CONSENT MOTION
13. The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill was introduced in Westminster on 2 July 2014. The latest version of the Bill can be found at: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/201415/healthandsocialcaresafetyandquality.html
14. The provisions of the Bill which impact on Northern Ireland and require a Legislative Consent Motion deal with objectives of bodies which regulate healthcare professionals across the UK and, in England only, social workers, and the body that oversees the regulators.
15. Clause 5 and paragraphs 1 – 6 of the Schedule seek to give the various regulators of health and social care professionals an overarching objective of public protection which includes reference to maintaining public safety, public confidence in the relevant profession, and proper professional standards and conduct.
16. Following Executive approval, the Legislative Consent Memorandum was laid in the Assembly by the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on 18 December 2014. A copy of the Legislative Consent Memorandum is attached at Appendix 1.
17. Having carefully considered the issues in relation to the regulation of healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland, the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety agreed at its meeting on 14 January 2015, to support the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in seeking the Assembly’s endorsement of the Legislative Consent Motion:
“That this Assembly endorses the principle of the extension to Northern Ireland of the provisions of the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, as introduced in the House of Commons on 2nd July 2014, contained in clause 5 and paragraphs 1 – 6 of the Schedule dealing with the objectives of regulators of health and social care professionals.”