Memorandum submitted by the The Nursing and Midwifery Council
DRAFT NHS (WALES) BILL
The Nursing and Midwifery Council, the regulatory body for the professions across the United Kingdom, is pleased to respond to your invitation to give evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee on the important issue of the NHS (Wales) Bill.
This response is based on the information sent with your letter, namely a letter from the existing unit called Health Professions Wales outlining its roles and functions as well as the draft Bill and its associated explanatory notes.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council would wish to comment briefly on the first two elements of the draft Bill, namely Community Health Councils in Wales and the Wales Centre for Health. We would wish to respond in more detail on the establishment of Health Professions Wales.
COMMUNITY HEALTH COUNCILS IN WALES
As the Nursing and Midwifery Council has as its prime objective in exercising its functions, safeguarding the health and well-being of those using or needing the services of its registrants, it supports all responsible initiatives that put the patient and the public at the heart of health care.
WALES CENTRE FOR HEALTH
The Nursing and Midwifery Council supports all relevant measures that are aimed at improving the health of the public and making such information readily accessible to them. The Council would welcome the opportunity to forge close links with the Wales Centre for Health, once established, in order to inform the Council's own thinking and future policies around the provision and development of education and training needs in public health. Such links could be mutually beneficial.
HEALTH PROFESSIONS WALES
The Nursing and Midwifery Council welcomes the establishment of Health Professions Wales and note that it will have functions related to health care professions and health care support workers.
The predecessor body to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC), valued its working relationship with the Welsh National Board. This provides a good foundation for the development of new working arrangements between the Nursing and Midwifery Council and Health Professions Wales. Discussions have been taking place over some months with representatives from the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh National Board regarding ways in which the future Health Professions Wales could undertake quality assurance of programmes leading to a registerable or recordable qualification with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The Council, during its shadow period, made it clear that it valued being able to access the expertise of Officers of the Welsh National Board in undertaking quality assurance on its behalf. Members of the Welsh Affairs Committee will also wish to note that similar arrangements have been entered into in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
We note that Health Professions Wales will be established as an independent Assembly Sponsored Body and subject to directions from the Assembly to whom it is accountable. Whilst the Nursing and Midwifery Council does not anticipate that there will be occasions when a direction from the Assembly would run counter to the requirements of either the Nursing and Midwifery Council or the Health Professions Council, the possibility does exist. Should this occur we would expect that the good relationships established with the current unit entitled Health Professions Wales would facilitate early warning of such a situation and channels through which the situation could be resolved.
Equally we note that the Bill will give the Assembly powers to abolish Health Professions Wales. Should this power be exercised we would expect that any organisation that has entered into contractual relationships with Health Professions Wales to be given due notice so that appropriate and effective arrangements could be made.
We hope that once the Bill has been enacted that there will be an opportunity to actively participate in consultations regarding the subsequent Order that would set out the constitution of Health Professions Wales. We are aware that the current unit bearing the same title was established on 1 April 2002 with identified roles and functions. However there are aspects of these current functions that we would welcome the opportunity to comment on when the Order regarding its future constitution is drafted. This can best be illustrated by two examples.
Whilst it is entirely appropriate for Health Professions Wales to interpret UK regulations and standards for Wales, we would wish to be assured that such interpretations relating to regulations and standards of the Nursing and Midwifery Council had the support of the Council. This would enable the Council to be confident that nothing had occurred that would prevent entries being made to the Council's register. For its part the Assembly would have evidence of the effectiveness of the working relationship between Health Professions Wales and the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The Council does welcome the role of Health Professions Wales in both influencing and providing feedback to it on the formulation of policy, regulations and standards from the Welsh perspective.
We also note that there is intent for Health Professions Wales to have functions in relation to healthcare support workers, including the possible production of a Code of Conduct. Whilst we agree that there is a need for the regulation of such workers, we would hope that this could be achieved on a UK-wide basis. We acknowledge that decisions about the regulation of healthcare support workers are overdue and that the Assembly is acting in the best interests of the people of Wales, however this action could indicate that there are to be different arrangements across the UK for the regulation of healthcare support workers which we believe would not be in the best interests of the people of the United Kingdom.
Acting Chief Executive/Registrar
6th June 2002