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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Regulation of other practitioners
Some health professionals have been subject to statutory regulation for decades; others are set to follow in the coming years.
British Psychological Society
The British Psychological Society was established in 1901. It can investigate complaints against any of its members or any chartered psychologists on its register.
However at the moment psychologists are not legally required to be on the register before they can practise in the UK and as a result the BPS is powerless to act against individuals who are not members of the society.
The society can take action against any member who has breached its code of conduct or who has been found guilty of professional misconduct.
A disciplinary committee hears cases in private and considers evidence from witnesses including the psychologist involved.
The committee publishes its decision and can reprimand the individual or strike them off its register throwing them out of the society.
The BPS is pressing the government to introduce legislation requiring all psychologists to be on its register and, thus, open to investigation.
Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine
The CPSM has been regulating professions allied to medicine - such as physiotherapists, speech therapists, dieticians, clinical scientists and paramedics - since 1960.
It is responsible for dealing with complaints relating to any of the 120,000 individuals working in these professions.
It can take action against any practitioners who have been found guilty of a criminal offence or any individual who has been found guilty of "infamous conduct in a professional respect".
Under existing law, the only action the CPSM can take against such practitioners is to strike them off its register which aims to prevent them from working in the UK.
The government has put forward plans to replace the CPSM with a new body the Health Professions Council.
Under the plans, the HPC would be given stronger powers to deal with practitioners who fail to meet appropriate standards of work or behaviour.
The change is also aimed at allowing the HPC to regulate other professions who are not currently being regulated.
General Chiropractic Council
The GCC was established under 1994 legislation and is responsible for regulating chiropractors in the UK. In 1999, it established a register of chiropractors and by 2001 anyone who describes themselves by that term must be on the register.
The GCC investigating committee examines complaints concerning individual chiropractors. These complaints can be forwarded on to its health committee or professional conduct committee. These committees can place conditions on an individual's practise, suspend them or strike them off the register preventing them for carrying on working.
The GCC, which is run by a 20-member Council, is also responsible for maintaining high standards of education for chiropractors.
General Optical Council
The GOC is responsible for regulating optometrists and opticians in the UK. Only individuals who have completed a recognised training are allowed to register with the Council and subsequently work in the UK. Any individual who practices as an optician or optometrist without being registered can be fined £2,500. The GOC is responsible for ensuring high standards of education on optical courses.
It is also responsible for dealing with complaints about individual optometrists or opticians. However, it is unable to consider consumer complaints such as the standard or cost of spectacles or services provided by a specific practice.
It can consider complaints relating to malpractice or professional misconduct. Its disciplinary committee is similar to a court of law and after hearing evidence decides whether an individual has committed an offence.
It can impose a fine or suspend an individual's registration stopping them from practising in the UK for at least 12 months.
In serious cases, it can strike an individual off the optical register. It can also impose the same sanctions on a company if it has contravened the GOC's code of conduct.
General Osteopathic Council
Under legislation introduced in 1993, all osteopaths working in the UK must be registered with the GOsC.
It has been illegal since May 2000 for any individual who is not registered to call themselves an osteopath.
The GOsC is responsible for taking action against any osteopath who is found guilty of unacceptable conduct or professional misconduct, anyone who has been convicted of a criminal offence and anyone whose health problems prevent them from practising properly.
Its code of practise lays down the standards expected of all osteopaths on the register.
Complaints against individual osteopaths are assessed by a screener or investigator who decides whether the case should be referred to the GOsC investigating committee.
This committee re-examines the evidence and decides whether the case should be referred to a public hearing of its professional conduct committee (PCC).
The PCC hears evidence from witnesses and can take action against individuals if it believes the professional misconduct has occurred.
In this instance, it can decide to formally admonish the individual; impose conditions on an their practice; or suspend the from practising for a limited period.
General Social Care Council
The government is planning to establish the new GSCC in October 2001 as part of its efforts to strengthen the regulation of social workers.
At the moment there is no statutory regulation of social workers. However, many are members of the British Association of Social Workers and are required to adhere to its code of ethics.
But under government plans all social workers will have to be registered with the GSCC from 2001.
The GSCC will be responsible for drawing up a code of conduct and ensuring that social workers across the UK meet high standards of care and disciplining those that fall below these standards.
The body will be run by a Council which will include social workers and a majority of lay representatives. There will be separate councils in each of England, Scotland, Wales and England.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain was founded in 1831 and has been responsible for regulating pharmacists working in the UK since 1954. Only those who are on the society's register are allowed to practise.
The society's statutory committee can take disciplinary action against any individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offence or who have been found guilty of professional misconduct.
It can erase individuals from its register stopping them from practising in the UK and it can also decide whether pharmacy premises can remain registered.
The government is planning to introduce legislation to strengthen regulation of pharmacists.
UK Council of Health Regulators
This body was proposed by the government in its national plan for the NHS in 2000.
Under the plans, the Council will be an umbrella body which will oversee the work of all of the health regulatory bodies.
It will be responsible for ensuring formal co-ordination between the various regulatory bodies and will act as a forum for all sectors to share views and ideas.
The Council is expected to work to establish common procedures across the health service for dealing with complaints against practitioners.
The government has indicated that if concerns about the ability of the existing regulatory bodies to protect the public continue, this Council could evolve and take over responsibility for regulating all health practitioners.
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