HC Deb 09 February 1999 vol 325 cc168-9W
Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to publish the report commissioned from J. M. Consulting on the review of legislation covering the registration of nurses, midwives and health visitors. [69790]

Mr. Denham

The Government have carefully considered the independent Review Report and have decided to publish it, together with a detailed response, later this week. Copies of the Report entitled "The Regulation of Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors" are available in the Library.

In the Lords today, my noble Friend Baroness Hayman announced a new, modernised and strengthened system of self-regulation for nurses, midwives and health visitors. The review recommends new legislation to replace the current arrangements. The criteria and principles for new legislation echo the Government's clear commitment to work with the professions and the regulatory bodies to strengthen the existing systems of professional self-regulation. The new arrangements will be designed to:

  • acknowledge and strengthen the accountability of practitioners;
  • strengthen the involvement of users and employers in the processes;
  • put public protection explicitly, and for the first time, at the heart of regulation.

The report recommends, and the Government accept, that the current dual regulatory structure (of a Council and four National Boards) be replaced with a new United Kingdom-wide body, with ultimate responsibility for regulating the professions, but national arrangements may be made in respect of some functions previously carried out by boards.

The Government have, however, decided not to accept recommendations relating to health visitors, who will continue to be a separate profession, retaining separate registration and representation on the new Council. A further review to explore the scope for the regulation of health care support workers is recommended, and we plan to commission this work shortly.

This is a thorough and thoughtful review, based on very extensive consultation. It was undertaken in the context of rapid developments and changes in the education and roles of the professions, and against the background of Government policies on the National Health Service and on devolution. This means that in Scotland and Wales, the new Council will be expected to commission educational quality assurance work in relation to nursing and midwifery from bodies whose structure and other functions will be determined by the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. Within Northern Ireland it will be up to the Northern Ireland Assembly, once it is fully operational, to determine the arrangements. No separate body is envisaged for England, although it would be open to the Council to collaborate with the Quality Assurance Agency.

Many of the recommendations in the report reflect issues of good practice and are addressed to the new Council, which will be smaller and more streamlined and strategic, both in its structure and functions. Others cannot be achieved without new legislation to replace the current Act. It is widely accepted that there is a need to find a way to implement these changes and a power has been included in the Health Bill, currently subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, to effect changes to primary legislation by Order. We will be bringing forward an amendment to the Health Bill to enable us to repeal the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1997 once the new arrangements are in place.

Forward to