It is a pleasure to serve under you in the Chair, Mr McCabe. I was also registered with the HCPC and the preceding bodies. Although I am no longer registered, I recognise the impact this issue has on NHS staff.
There are nine different regulators in the NHS, regulating 32 different professions. They provide a very important function: this is about protecting not only the public, but health professionals themselves in the course of their practice. The regulators are there to set, maintain and raise standards and to give confidence to the public, as well as to hold a register and protect the title of a profession, so that other people cannot set up a business pretending that they hold the professional qualifications, which people across the NHS work hard for.
Increasingly, regulators also ensure continuing professional development. The most advanced programme of professional development has been put in place by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in recent times. The regulations around that ensure that registrants are compliant with continuing professional development. The function of regulators is to ensure that professionals who fail to uphold professional standards and their duty of care are called to account, so that sanction is applied where necessary and recourse is taken.
We have already heard that—thankfully—a miniscule number of professionals are taken through disciplinary processes. That is a tribute to the great professionalism across the NHS. However, such cases do occur, and it is appropriate that rigorous processes are in place so that individuals can defend their position and have recourse to justice before appropriate action is taken. To have someone practising who is not fit for practice risks the whole profession, so it is vital that that is put in place.
However, the cost of that process has escalated substantially, as hon. Members have mentioned. When I first registered as a physio, I had to pay only £17. In 2015, the last year that I was registered, there was a huge increase—from £80 to £90. The suggested increase to £106 is, quite frankly, unacceptable, particularly given the background, as set out by hon. Members, of a decade of pay regression, pension cuts and student loan repayments. In my time we had grants, so things have changed significantly.
More and more burdens are being placed on health professionals. That means that more risk is placed on health professionals. When we had adequate staffing in the NHS, mistakes were less frequent and caseloads were safer. Unfortunately, in many professions people’s caseloads are now too big. The pressure on those individuals increases.
I was formerly head of health at Unite. We focused on organisations’ duty of care. Managers in particular must say no to the organisation and argue the case for more staff, rather than increase the pressure on health professionals by making their caseloads unsafe—that would mean that managers were failing in their duty of care, in breach of their standards of professional conduct.