Implementing Best Practice
Changing health professional regulation policy
All clinical staff are strictly regulated by guidelines, laws and best practice. Professor Gerry McGivern’s research investigated possible improvements to the rules governing medical professionals, refining regulations and developing new ways of sharing and fostering best practice.
Regulators spend significant amounts of time and resources promoting best practice to professionals, but there is little evidence to confirm how effective this is in improving patient care and outcomes. Professor McGivern’s research developed regulation changes that would prioritise the needs of patients and allow practitioners to work to the very best of their abilities.
Professor McGivern’s research initially considered how 5,300 osteopaths were regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), yet found a far wider application with insights shared with several other health regulators including:
Professional Standards Authority (PSA)
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
General Medical Council (GMC)
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
Care Quality Commission (CQC)
The research advocated for a move away from enforcing best practice through disciplinary measures. Rather, Professor McGivern underlined the value of ‘formative spaces’ which allowed practitioners to discuss better ways of working with their peers. The long-term aim was to improve Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for healthcare professionals.
Medical regulators have put Professor McGivern’s research ideas into action.
The GOsC introduced new regulations in autumn 2018, based on the project’s findings and, as a result, osteopaths now have to prove their ‘continuing fitness to practise’ through CPD and peer discussions. Improved understanding of official standards has increased levels of compliance.
The HCPC and the NMC (responsible for over one million staff) were also keen to adopt Professor McGivern’s research findings, praising the focus on preventing malpractice and harm to patients. As a result, a less punitive approach to regulation is becoming more popular.
The PSA used the research findings, particularly Professor McGivern’s notion of ‘formative spaces’, when responding to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. The PSA included the research findings on peer support in their report ‘Rethinking Regulation’, which called for a ‘radical overhaul’ in healthcare regulation.
Regulators in Kenya and Uganda have also recognised the importance of Professor McGivern’s work, incorporating key ideas into their own practices.