There are more than two million roles working within health and care in the UK that are not subject to statutory regulation. In 2013, the Accredited Registers programme was introduced to provide oversight and help ensure that the public and employers can have confidence in choosing services from practitioners who display our Quality Mark. The programme now covers 100,000 practitioners across 25 registers, in roles such as counselling, psychotherapy and health sciences. The programme helps raise standards by checking that Registers of these roles meet our requirements for complaints handling, registration and governance.
There are a wide range of treatments and services chosen by patients and service users to support their health and wellbeing. We know that, while many people find them useful, not all of these services will be backed by scientific evidence. There is a small, yet real risk that some of these may do more harm than good – for example if people choose them as alternatives to conventional treatment for serious medical conditions, or if they spend money on treatments on the basis of misleading claims.
The introduction of Standard 1b
To address this, we are introducing a new ‘public interest test’ within our Standards for Registers. This will allow us to weigh up whether the benefits of the health and care services offered by registrants outweigh any risks. We will also check to make sure that information provided by a Register and its practitioners about the benefits and risks are clear, and accurate. We think this will help further increase confidence in our Quality Mark and help support informed patient choice. There was strong support from patient groups in our recent public consultation on the future of the programme for us to consider evidence of effectiveness in our accreditation decisions.
We hope that as part of the wider changes we are introducing to streamline our assessment process, this will put the programme in a good position to extend its coverage. Accreditation can play an important role in the assurance of the new and expanding roles within the NHS, many of which are not regulated by law. New applications for accreditation have more than doubled in the past year – this includes Registers of some of the new roles aimed at widening access to mental health services.
Safeguarding the public
It is also important that those accessing services from self-employed practitioners are protected. Later this year there will be a pilot of the introduction of enhanced criminal records checks for self-employed registrants. This is an important safeguard, especially for those who care for children and vulnerable adults.
In the longer term, we want to work with UK Governments to strengthen the protections offered by the programme. The recent consultation on the Health and Care Bill proposes changes to the way that decisions are made about which professions should be regulated. This presents an opportunity to develop the programme so that it can support NHS workforce needs, whilst continuing to provide assurance about independent practitioners.
You can read our full report on the future shape of the Accredited Registers programme here.
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