Challenges to Regulatory Reform Proposals

The PDA has responded to a Department of Health consultation about reforms to the regulation of healthcare professionals in the UK. The proposals include giving employers a position on regulatory councils.

Thu 15th February 2018 The PDA

The Department of Health consulted from 31 October 2017 to 23 January 2018 on proposals to reform healthcare  regulation in the UK, including reducing the number of regulators from nine to three or four.

The PDA said that the priority in reforming regulation should be the benefit to patients. The organisation also said that professional bodies should have a key role in setting the standards for the profession – working in partnership with the regulator and the public – and regulators should enforce these. To use the DoH’s phraseology from the consultation document, regulators should be “policing the conduct, performance and behavior” of registrants.

To maintain the status of a profession, a professional leadership body would need to set increasingly high standards for practitioners to meet; in this respect, the interests of the profession would be aligned to those of the public. The pharmacy regulator has considerably less knowledge and understanding of the profession than professionals and so appears to have great difficulty in setting appropriate standards for them. Professionals who have undertaken a university degree in order to serve patients are in the best position to define standards which care for and protect those patients. To allow a regulator whose council comprised non-professionals (as proposed in the consultation) to attempt to define standards – even if it receives input from the profession but retains decision-making capacity – could risk deprofessionalizing those subject to the standards, since the expectations may be too simplistic, misplaced or “set the bar too low”.


The consultation document asked, among other things:

Do you think that the views of employers should be better reflected on the councils of the regulatory bodies,
and how might this be achieved?

The PDA said that the statement in the consultation document that the government expects “professional regulators to work in partnership with employers…” is cause for concern. It would have serious implications for the maintenance of patient care and safety through pharmacy regulation, since the corporate objectives of profit-making organisations being reflected on the council could lead to a diminution of standards of education and training – since they may regard profit as being in competition with certain aspects of quality. Many – and an increasing – number of employers in the NHS are profit-making.

In addition:

  • If large employers – many of whose directors may be non-pharmacists – had representation on the council, they would be in a position to influence the regulation of many pharmacies – and that would
    likely be the perception.
  • Employers sometimes refer pharmacists to the regulator where they have fitness to practice concerns. For the same employers to be represented on the council of the regulator would be entirely inappropriate, since they could influence – or at least, be perceived to influence – the outcome of any action taken. This would be entirely unfair for the registrant.


You can download the full consultation response below.

thumbnail of dh-promoting-professionalism-reforming-regulation-pda-consultation-response

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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