The Government will consult on whether all healhcare regulators should be merged into one, in a massive overhaul that would save the NHS up to £36m a year.
The Department of Health (DH) has said that it will launch a consultation during 2017 on reforms to healthcare regulation.
One of the possibilities that will be consulted on is a merger of the existing nine regulators 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.
Another possibility will be to merge the NMC with the 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.’
‘Hugely differing roles’
Pardeep Sandhu, executive director of professional services at the Medical Protection Society, said: ‘We are keen to see more detail on this proposal when a consultation is published, however we would be concerned about an amalgamation exercise which could result in the specific expertise of each profession’s regulator being lost.
‘Any new regulator would need to be able to distinguish between the hugely differing roles within the many professions it would oversee. We also hope any consultation will place greater emphasis on ensuring more efficient regulation – limiting unnecessary impact on the health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals and their ability to get on and do their job.’