A Guide To Health Professional Regulators In The UK

The healthcare sector in the United Kingdom is highly regulated in a variety of ways with some regulators making sure the quality and safety of healthcare services provided are of the highest quality. This includes the Care Quality Commission in England and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Agency in Northern Ireland. Other regulatory bodies in the UK assess the quality and safety of medicines and medical devices used in the healthcare sector, an example being the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The Role of Regulators and Who They Are

You can check whether your doctor or other medical professional is up-to-date with all the advancements and developments in the medical sector by researching them on the General Medical Council’s register. The 4 main functions of the regulatory bodies are to ensure that all registered medical professionals are of the necessary standard in being able to treat the general public and that they do so in the following ways:

  • By setting specific standards of “competence and conduct” by which all health and care specialists as well as medical professionals must abide by in order to meet the criteria required to register and practise in the United Kingdom. This includes producing new guidance and/or updating existing guidance – an example being that ten years ago, it would not have been necessary to regulate professional behaviour on social media
  • By checking the quality of training and educational courses to ensure that students are provided with the knowledge and skills required to practise competently and safely
  • By maintaining the register of professionals so that everyone can carry out searches and this includes the public, and to ensure that all registered professionals are deemed fit to practise. The reason being that a medical professional whether a dentist or a doctor, may pass their exams and begin practising without having to read another medical textbook ever again. The role of the regulatory bodies is to ensure that this never happens due to the systems that are in place. These systems gather evidence and proof that all registered professionals continue to develop their skills as well as keep abreast of developments that take place in a chosen field
  • By investigating complaints filed against registered professionals/people in order to establish the following:
    • That they be allowed to continue practising – this is referred to as “being fit to practise”
    • That they be permitted to continue practising but with certain conditions attached to how they are allowed to work – an example being to attend a training course
    • That they be suspended from practising
    • That they be “struck off” the register which is referred to as “erasure” which could be due to issues of competence or conduct

This procedure is commonly referred to as “fitness to practise”. On top of these specific functions, some regulatory bodies boast having other responsibilities, an example being the General Pharmaceutical Council is also tasked to register and inspect pharmacies.

The Nine Regulatory Bodies

The 9 regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom who are overseen by the Professional Standards Authority are detailed below:

The General Chiropractic Council

The General Chiropractic Council regulates and assists in the development of the chiropractic sector. The council is a government-established regulatory body that was set in place by the Chiropractors Act 1994 and boasts three main roles:

  • To protect the general public through the establishment and working practices for statutory regulations of chiropractors which is similar to other regulations that cover other health and care professionals
  • To set standards for Chiropractic practice, conduct as well as education
  • To ensure the development of the chiropractic health sector through the use of a model that ensures constant improvement

The General Dental Council

The General Dental Council is the regulatory body that covers dental professionals in the United Kingdom. In short, all dental professionals throughout the UK are obliged to be registered in order to practise and this includes the following dental professionals:

  • Dentists
  • Dental therapists
  • Dental technicians
  • Orthodontic therapists
  • Dental hygienists
  • Clinical dental technicians
  • Dental nurses

The role of the General Dental Council is to protect the public by way of regulating dental teams which they do in the following ways:

  • To register all qualified professionals in the dental sector
  • To establish standards for dentistry practice and conduct
  • To ensure that quality education in the dentistry sector is available
  • To ensure that all dentistry professionals remain up-to-date
  • To provide patients with any complaints regarding their dentists and other dental care professionals
  • To work hard when it comes to strengthening the level of protection all dental patients receive

The General Medical Council

The General Medical Council is tasked with protecting all medical patients with part of their service being to improve education and practice throughout the United Kingdom. The role of the General Medical Council is detailed below:

  • To decide which doctors in the United Kingdom are qualified to practice
  • To oversee medical education and training in the United Kingdom
  • To set the standards which doctors must follow and abide by
  • To take action, where necessary, in preventing doctors from putting the safety of patients at risk or in putting the confidence the public has in doctors at risk

The General Medical Council is mandated in the Medical Act of 1983 which covers the following:

  • The regulatory body’s statutory purpose
  • General Medical Council governance which includes how all registered members are appointed
  • Responsibilities to ensure medical registration, revalidation as well as the education of doctors and to provide guidance to doctors when it comes to professional ethics, conduct and performance

The General Optical Council

The General Optical Council is the regulatory body that governs optical professionals throughout the United Kingdom with more than 24,000 optical businesses, optometrists and student opticians as well as dispensing opticians being registered with the council. The main functions of the General Optical Council are detailed below:

  • To establish standards that cover education, training, performance as well as conduct for all optical professions
  • To approve the qualifications for optical professionals to qualify for registration
  • To maintain a register of all people who are fully qualified and deemed “fit to practice”, and individuals who set up a dispensing optician business, and optometrists, and to train other people to do so
  • To investigate and take action should it be found that fitness to practice, continue doing business or train any registrants in impaired in any way

The General Osteopathic Council

The General Osteopathic Council the regulatory body that governs osteopathic practices in the United Kingdom. All osteopaths throughout the UK are legally obliged to be registered with the General Osteopathic Council should they wish to practice. The main objectives of the council are detailed below:

  • To protect and promote the safety and well-being of the general public and to preserve it
  • To maintain and promote confidence in the osteopathic profession by the general public
  • To maintain and promote the strict professional standards and conduct of all members

The General Pharmaceutical Council

The General Pharmaceutical Council is the governing body that regulates all pharmacists, pharmacies and pharmacy technicians throughout the United Kingdom with their role being to improve and ensure that high standards of care are offered to the general public by all pharmacy services.

The Health Professions Council

The Health & Care Professions Council is the regulatory body that protects the general public by maintaining registration of all health and care specialists and professionals who must meet the specific standards as set out by the governing body when it comes to professional health, skills, behaviour and training. The specialists and professionals currently regulated by the Health & Care Professions Council are listed below:

  • Social Workers in England
  • Language and Speech Therapists
  • Orthotists/Prosthetists
  • Radiographers
  • Practitioner Psychologists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Paramedics
  • Orthoptists
  • Operating Department Practitioners
  • Occupational therapists
  • Hearing Aid Dispensers
  • Dieticians
  • Clinical Scientists
  • Podiatrists/Chiropodists,
  • Biomedical Scientists
  • Arts Therapists

Anyone who works in any of the professions above, is obliged to be registered with the Health Professions Council.

The Nursing & Midwifery Council

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is the regulatory body that governs nurses and midwives who practice in the United Kingdom. Their role is to protect the general public by setting standards in training and education as well as the performance and conduct of nurses and midwives who enter and work in the healthcare sector.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland

The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland is the regulatory body that was set up in the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1925 (NI) with the main role being as follows:

  • The advancement of pharmacy and chemistry
  • The promotion of application of knowledge and education
  • The promotion, safeguard and maintenance regarding the interests of Society members in the exercise of their profession
  • The execution of functions entrusted to the Society
  • To provide relief for distressed people which includes the following:
    • Society members
    • Those people who have been Society students, previous members of Society, apprentices of pharmaceutical chemists, druggists, chemists
    • Surviving spouses, deceased persons’, civil partners, orphans or dependants who have been members of the Society or registered in a similar manner.