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2010 Health Care Service Group Conference
10 December 2009

Conference notes that members in the health service are facing a wide range of regulatory reforms.

Conference recognises the contribution of UNISON’s Professional Service Unit in taking forward issues regarding the regulation of health care staff including providing professional representation, working with regulators and creating links and innovative partnerships with professional organisations.

Conference is aware that over the next year, new legislation will require individuals working or volunteering with vulnerable adults or children to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority Vetting and Barring Scheme (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or the Protection of Vulnerable Groups – Check to Protect Scheme (Scotland). Conference acknowledges the successful work already undertaken nationally to raise concerns around these schemes and to lobby for relevant changes.

Conference is firmly committed to delivering effective public protection. However the schemes in their current form are neither risk based nor proportionate. Conference remains concerned that the schemes will be overburdened with casework, as they are based on the false assumption that everyone is a risk. It is vital to ensure that the most appropriate, fair, and workable system is put in place to protect the public.

Following the 2007 White Paper, ‘Trust Assurance and Safety’ the Department of Health is considering extending professional regulation to a broader range of health professionals, including support staff. Conference questions whether this would be necessary for certain staff given the additional safeguarding protections already being introduced. Pilots of employer-led regulation of healthcare assistants were recently run in Scotland and conference welcomes the opportunity to learn from these pilots.

‘Trust Assurance and Safety’ also required all health regulators to begin to put arrangements in place for revalidation – a mechanism for registrants to demonstrate that they continue to meet the requirements of their professional registration. Conference believes that revalidation should focus on improving practise and link with existing staff development tools such as the Knowledge and Skills Framework. The process must not add to the burden of administration nor push up the cost of registration fees.

Finally, Conference notes that health and social care organisations in England are required to register with the new Care Quality Commission and are subject to it’s legally enforceable standards of quality and safety. Conference acknowledges that consistent standards lead to improved patient care and that staff attitudes are an important barometer for health care regulators to assess whether these standards are being met.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to:

1. Identify campaigning, training and recruitment strategies that will enable members and branches to get involved in taking forward issues around the regulation of health care staff.

2. Consider all reasonable measures, including seeking advice on potential legal action in accordance with UNISON’s rules, to put pressure on government to require employers to pay for ISA and PVG registration fees rather than the applicant; to ensure that the vetting and barring process does not duplicate existing registration procedures and to demand that everyone has the right to a fair hearing which complies with the Human Rights Act.

3.undertake a scoping exercise on the regulation of support staff, beginning with healthcare assistants and using the outcomes of the Scotland pilots, to identify regulation frameworks and competencies which members have confidence in and which offer continuity across all four UK countries.

4.Seek discussions with the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence and the Department of Health, calling on them to ensure that any revalidation arrangements are consistent across all regulators and can be applied effectively across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

5.Maintain effective communication with regulators of health and social care organisations in all four UK countries, urging them to ensure that the views of staff are taken into account when assessing the quality and safety of services.