The Bill, which unusually began life as a Private Members' Bill, finished its passage through the House of Commons on 9 January. It includes a number of provisions, including providing for regulations to secure that CQC-regulated services do not cause avoidable harm to service users. In addition it provides for a system of 'consistent identifiers', designed to allow information about a service user to be shared between providers, a duty on commissioners and providers to share information about service users where it is in their best interests, and amendments to the objectives of a number of the professional regulators.
Currently section 20 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 provides that the Secretary of State may make regulations to secure that health and care services are of an appropriate quality and to secure the health, safety and welfare of service users. If the Bill is passed, the Secretary of State would instead be required to impose any requirements necessary to secure that health and care services "cause no avoidable harm" to service users. This complements the duty of candour, which requires NHS bodies (and, soon, private providers) to disclose to service users if they come to moderate or severe harm as a result of treatment or care.
Under section 5 of the Bill statutes governing many of the healthcare professional regulators (including the PSA) will be amended to include that their overriding objective is the protection of the public. This derives from the Law Commission report and draft Bill on the Regulation of Health and Social Care Professionals published in April last year. In its report the Law Commission considered whether an overriding objective was required and discussed whether this should instead be to maintain public confidence in the profession, in line with the case of Bolton v Law Society. The report concluded that the objective of each regulator should be to "protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public." However, both the health of the public and the promotion of public confidence in the profession are referred to in the Bill as objectives to be considered as part of the protection of the public. While the Law Commission Bill is not going to be considered by this Parliament, it appears that its recommendations have been heard and may make their way into the statute book in other forms.
In order to make it to the statute books, the Bill will need to receive two further readings in the House of Lords and be examined in Committee by the dissolution of Parliament at the end of March, before the final version is given Royal Assent.