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Protecting the Public? An Analysis of Professional Regulation—Comparing Outcomes in Fitness to Practice Proceedings for Social Workers, Nurses and Doctors

Worsley, Aidan and Shorrock, Sarah and McLaughlin, Kenneth (2020) Protecting the Public? An Analysis of Professional Regulation—Comparing Outcomes in Fitness to Practice Proceedings for Social Workers, Nurses and Doctors. The British Journal of Social Work. ISSN 0045-3102

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Abstract

The regulation of professional activity in the Health and Social Care sector in the UK is carried out by a number of statutory bodies that hold legal mandates to manage the risks of professional malpractice. The prime method used to perform this duty, and thereby protect the public, is the construction of a register of the suitability qualified—and creation of appropriate professional standards to establish a benchmark for practice. When registrant’s performance or conduct is felt not to meet these standards, they are placed within a fitness to practice process administered by the regulatory body. This article examines the publicly available data on fitness to practice cases from UK regulatory bodies relating to the professions of social workers, nurses, midwives and doctors. Examining nearly 1,000 cases, the authors run a statistical analysis of the data to establish whether any differences are found amongst and between these professional groupings. We find there are several areas where significant differences arise, namely gender, attendance and representation. Most of these regulatory bodies are, in turn, regulated in the UK by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), and the article concludes by suggesting ways forward for the PSA in addressing or further examining apparent inequalities. The analysis is placed within a wide range of literature, with an emphasis on the international transferability of the approach to professional regulation.

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