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Royal College of Surgeons’ statement on regulation of healthcare professionals

08 Feb 2017

As reported in The Times today, the Government is considering scrapping the General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, and General Dental Council among others, and merging them into a super regulator. In a House of Lords debate last week the Government said it plans to consult, within a couple of months, on having a single professional regulator for all healthcare professionals. The Government has also said it is planning to consult on how to regulate other healthcare professionals such as physician associates and surgical care practitioners.

Responding to suggestions the health regulators could be merged, Ian Eardley, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons said:

“It is right for the Government to look at how it can make regulation more consistent and cost effective. Anything which makes it simpler for the public to understand who to contact if they have concerns is a good thing. However, the General Medical Council and other regulators have built up specific expertise and there is a danger of this being lost in a single merged super-regulator covering around a million staff. For example, the General Dental Council currently takes targeted and much needed action against illegal tooth whitening in the UK. It would be extremely regrettable if that sort of specialist capability was lost so the Government needs to think about this very carefully.

“Energy should also be focused on who needs to be brought into regulation. Over the last few years a number of new roles such as surgical care practitioners have been established in the NHS. Many of these are playing a vital role in working alongside doctors to care for patients yet they are poorly regulated. It is particularly surprising that physician associates are officially unregulated in this country when their scope of practice can be similar to a junior doctor.

“Patients and surgeons have also long been calling for much needed reform on cosmetic surgery – we would like the General Medical Council’s register to be able to tell patients which surgeons are suitably qualified and experienced to undertake cosmetic surgery.”

Notes to editors

1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

2. For more information, please contact the Press Office:

3. There are currently nine professional regulators. These are the General Chiropractic Council, General Dental Council, General Medical Council, General Optical Council, General Osteopathic Council, Health and Care Professions Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, and the General Pharmaceutical Council.

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