Headlines: June 12th, 2000

The King’s Fund is hosting a debate today on the future of health care regulation. It is claimed that the current fragmented systems for regulating the work of doctors, nurses and other health professionals have lost public confidence and need radical change.The impatience of the Government for reform and the spotlight of intense media scrutiny are making the professions feel uncomfortable. It is argued that only a fundamental change in the framework of professional regulation will improve this situation. Such a change would involve a new framework to unify and simplify regulation, covering all those who give hands-on health care. It would also involve service users and ensure its work is open to the public.

The opposing view presents self-regulation as the best way to protect the public from poor medical practice. Control by contract and inspection, it is claimed, is no substitute for a system that works through the conscience of the professional. The vast majority of health professionals continue to enjoy public trust. Regulation should not just be seen as dealing with bad doctors or surgeons, but about raising standards of care, encouraging good practice and preventing poor performance. It must involve and be informed by the public, but should be led by the professions themselves.