The Department of Health's report The Regulation of the non-medical healthcare professions (July 2006) defines regulation as the set of systems and activities intended to ensure that healthcare practitioners have the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours to provide healthcare safely. This encompasses activity undertaken by individual professionals, teams, employers, regulatory bodies and other organisations.
The core activities of regulation are listed in the Health Act (1999) as:
- Keeping the register of members admitted to practice
- Determining standards of education and training for admission to practice
- Giving advice about standards of conduct and performance
- Administering procedures (including making rules) relating to misconduct, unfitness to practise and similar matters.
The prime purpose of professional regulation is public protection. Whilst there will also be considerable benefits for the professionals in the production of visible standards, the professionals themselves are not the main focus of regulation - the focus lies with the consumer.
Professional regulation becomes statutory regulation at the point where the State regards it as so important for public safety that it legislates for a ban on either using the professional title or doing certain things unless your name appears in the register. This protects patients from the harm caused by people practising a profession which they are not fit to. It engenders public confidence by allowing members of the public and the employers of professionals to check on a person's registration status, knowing that the information they find will be correct and up to date.