Professional Standards Authority: health regulation 'unfit for future'

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) said today the regulatory framework for health and social care needs radical change as it is out of date, over-complicated and too expensive.

Outlining its views in a new repot Rethinking regulation, the PSA called for a redesign of regulation in order to deal with pressure on the health and care sector. It says without reform, health and care systems in the UK cannot face up to future challenges including an ageing population, long-term conditions, co-morbidity, the rising cost of health technologies and a global shortage of health and care workers.

Harry Cayton, chief executive of the PSA, said: "Piecemeal adjustments to health and care regulation have, over time, made the system cumbersome, ineffective and expensive. Every part of our health and care system is changing in order to meet future needs. If patients are to benefit, regulation must undergo radical change too. 

"Regulation is asked to do too much - and to do things it should not do. We need to understand that we cannot regulate risk out of healthcare and to use regulation only where we have evidence that it actually works. Ironically, the regulations that are meant to protect patients and service users are distracting professionals from this very task."

The report explains why regulation is not fit for purpose now and needs to be reformed so that it better supports professionals providing health and care. It argues that regulation of professionals cannot be changed in isolation but must take account of the places in which they work. It calls for deregulation, less regulation and better regulation.

Rethinking Regulation makes a series of recommendations intended to reshape how regulation works so that it is able to face the challenges of the future.

These include:

  • Shared objectives for system and professional regulators 
  • Transparent benchmarking to set standards 
  • A rebuilding of trust between professionals, the public and regulators 
  • A reduced scope of regulation so it focuses on what works 
  • A proper risk assessment model