Health professionals need to pay more attention to regulation issues

13 June 2014

Global leaders of the main health professions, including dentists, have urged their members to pay more attention to regulation issues and implement the right systems in order to act in the public interest.

The call came during the World Health Regulations Conference, which took place in Geneva on 17 and 18 May, under the theme ‘Facing challenges to acting in the public interest. Dentists, senior physicians, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists from over 45 countries gathered to consider how different systems of professional regulation promote public safety and health while also protecting health professionals.

Participants concluded that, in the face of the many challenges facing health professions and their patients globally—changing demography, increased expectations of health services, more mobile professionals—there is a greater need than ever for regulation systems that ensure quality of service and protect the public.

Not an option
At the conference organized, by the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA), of which FDI is a member, participants agreed that different systems suit different national environments, but whatever the model, regulation is a responsibility and a public duty, not an option.

They said that regulation systems should be underpinned by accountability and responsiveness and should observe principles such as checks and balances between stakeholders, and patients and professionals being aware of rights and duties.

Patient care,patient rights and patient safety
There was agreement between WHPA members (the International Council of Nurses, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, the World Dental Federation and the World Medical Association) that the goals of health professional regulation should be person-centred, involving patient care, patient rights and patient safety. They should also take into account social and economic welfare and professional practice.

Regulations—the collection of customs, ethics, standards and rules that govern their activities—are coming under increased pressure from the political and economic impact of regional integration and globalization. Governments in high-income countries seek to ease up regulation in order to comply with the international commitments to open their markets for health care; however, some commentators this could lead to de-professionalization, de-skilling and a general rush to the bottom without achieving the overall objective of improving access to healthcare services for millions of people in low, middle and high income countries.

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