A register lists health and care professionals who meet the relevant standards for their education, training, professional skills, conduct and health. Registers are electronic, searchable and accessed via the internet and they can be statutory, accredited or voluntary:
Statutory registers cover health and care professionals working in occupations that Parliament has said must be regulated. Statutory registers include The General Medical Council (GMC) regulating doctors, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) regulating nurses and midwives and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulating certain health, psychological and social work professionals. It is a criminal offence for anyone not on a statutory register to work in these regulated occupations.
Regulators holding statutory registers are required to:
- Set standards of competence and conduct that health and care professionals must meet in order to be registered and practise.
- Check the quality of education and training courses to make sure they give students the skills and knowledge to practise safely and competently.
- Maintain a register that everyone can search.
- Investigate complaints about people on their register and decide if they should be allowed to continue to practise or should be struck off the register – either because of problems with their conduct or their competence.
Accredited registers are a new approach to regulation recently established by government in preference to statutory registers. In 2012 the Health and Social Care Act extended the role of the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) to include accrediting registers of people working in health and care occupations not regulated by statute.
In order to obtain accreditation an organisation must show they have met the PSA’s specific and demanding standards by means of a rigorous application process. The areas that the PSA standards cover relate to governance, setting standards for registrants (including education and training) and managing the register. Organisations are then re-accredited each year provided they can show they are still meeting the PSA standards.
The PSA makes sure that organisations holding accredited registers manage the registers well and follow good practice whilst the organisation holding the accredited register makes sure their registrants meet their standards and will take action if they do not.
It is not compulsory for unregulated practitioners to apply to join an accredited register. They choose to do it because it shows their commitment to their area of work and makes them part of a professional community that works to high standards and policies. If a practitioner is struck off an accredited register they are not allowed to join another accredited register.
Voluntary registers are those registers not covered by statute and not accredited by the PSA.