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Professional regulation plays a vital role in setting and enforcing the standards of professional behaviour, competence and ethics underpinning the day-to-day interactions patients and the public have with the NHS and the variety of other health and social care services within the UK.

The system of professional regulation in the UK existed long before the NHS was created in 1948 and remains independent of Government. In the UK, nine professional regulators regulate 32 healthcare professions by law, with many more professionals on voluntary registers. These bodies are responsible for setting, checking and enforcing the professional standards of care patients in the UK should receive, and in ensuring healthcare professionals of the future are equipped with the right skills, qualities and experience. 

This House of Commons Library briefing describes the main functions of these professional regulators in more detail, along with some of the prominent debates surrounding this area of health policy as well as the case for reform.

Regulators vary in their policies, functions and operations so the focus of this briefing is on the largest regulators: the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Health and Care Professionals Council, the General Dental Council and the General Pharmaceutical Council. 

While health is a devolved matter, the system of professional regulation generally operates UK-wide. An explanation of this UK-wide approach is set out on page 9.

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