Monday, 7 February 2011

Regulation will Improve patient safety

Clinical physiologists perform a range of procedures including pacemaker reprogramming and non-invasive ventilation. Despite the sensitive and potentially high risk nature of their work, they are currently not regulated. This means that incompetent practitioners who potentially put the lives of patients at risk are able to move from job to job escaping detection. 

Tabling an Early Day Motion in Parliament, I have called on the Government to introduce a statutory register at the earliest possible opportunity. The Early Day Motion also highlights the important role of clinical physiologists in diagnosis and argues that only a statutory register will provide the necessary protection for the patient. The Department of Health agreed to a statutory register for clinical physiologists in 2004, but are yet to deliver on their promise.

Clinical physiology is currently only covered by a voluntary register maintained by the Registration Council of Clinical Physiologists (RCCP).  The lack of statutory regulation means that, while the RCCP operates a disciplinary code, it cannot be enforced to protect patients from clinical physiologists unfit to practice.

Clinical Physiologists deliver a wide range of diagnostic and often invasive procedures directly to patients and work closely with medical staff and other healthcare professionals to diagnose, treat, monitor and manage the care of patients.

Despite the recognition by the Health Secretary accepting the need to statutorily regulate clinical physiologists back in 2004, the fact that six years later statutory regulation is still not in place, has potentially huge implications for patients' safety.

Anne Burge, Chair of the RCCP, said, “The current system of voluntary registration is wholly inadequate and urgently needs reform to ensure patient safety.  Many patients are horrified when they find out that clinical physiologists are currently not registered, despite their patient-facing role and the high-risk nature of the procedures they often undertake."

“We hope that this motion will encourage the Government to take statutory regulation forward as a priority.”

EDM 1352 
That this House welcomes the valuable contribution that clinical physiologists make to patient care in the NHS; notes their importance in developing and delivering a wide range of sensitive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures directly to patients in the disciplines of audiology, cardiology, gastro-intestinal physiology, neurophysiology and respiratory physiology; further notes with concern that, despite the Health Professions Council's recommendation in 2004 that clinical physiologists should be statutorily regulated and this advice being accepted by the Department of Health in 2005, statutory regulation has not yet been put in place; recognises the value of the current voluntary register which has been compiled and administered by the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists; understands the Government's direction of travel that voluntary regulation is the preferred way forward for most new healthcare professions, but believes that, because of the potentially highly invasive nature of clinical physiologists' activities, voluntary registration does not provide patients with enough protection against those who are unfit to practice; regrets that some of the delay appears to have been caused by the Department's otherwise worthwhile plans to better integrate the wider healthcare science workforce through Modernising Scientific Careers; and calls on the Government to publish a clear timetable for a draft Section 60 Order which will take forward statutory regulation as soon as possible to minimise the ongoing risks to patient safety.