The Department of Health is launching a consultation later this year which will look at the potential of merging health regulators into one.
The Times has reported plans on the table include merging GMC and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) into one mega regulator that would cover more than a million staff.
Another option would be to merge nine health regulators into one single organisation responsible for ‘registering all health professionals and carrying out disciplinary procedures’.
According to the report, plans could save 15-18% of the £200m annual health regulation budget by ‘ending duplication’.
The DH suggested the report went to far, but confirmed that a consultation is planned for later this year which would look at merging health regulators.
DH spokesperson said: ‘There will definitely be a consultation which should take place later in the year.
‘The story in The Times was overblown. We haven’t even had the consultation yet so we can’t comment on it.
‘We encourage all regulators, employers, professionals, and the public to take part. Joining the regulators is just one of the possibilities that will be consulted on.’
The Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which oversees the nine healthcare regulators, expressed support for reforms.
Director of standards and policy Christine Braithwaite said: ‘Professional regulation is out of step with modern healthcare. In our paper Regulation Rethought, we suggest regulators should consider sharing functions and merging, if savings can be made for registrants.
‘We recommend that health professionals should meet common standards, in keeping with multi-disciplinary care today. We also recommend the creation of a single, shared public register instead of nine separate ones, to make it easier for the public and employers to access it.’
The GMC declined to comment, while NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said she was ‘pleased’ that there is going to be a discussion about reforms to fitness-to-practise proceedings.
As previously reported by Pulse, the work pledged in the GP Forward View earlier last year to reduce the burden of regulation on GP practices has begun, with a regulatory programme board formed with representatives also including GMC, CCGs, NHS England and HEE.
GP indemnity provider the Medical Protection Society said it ‘would be concerned about an amalgamation exercise which could result in the specific expertise of each profession’s regulator being lost’.
Pardeep Sandhu, MPS executive director of professional services, added: ‘Any new regulator would need to be able to distinguish between the hugely differing roles within the many professions it would oversee.
‘We also hope any consultation will place greater emphasis on ensuring more efficient regulation – limiting unnecessary impact on the health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals and their ability to get on and do their job.’