Consultation on regulation of the private and voluntary sectors
The Department of Health published a consultation document on the regulation of the private and voluntary sectors in 1999, recommending the establishment of a new regulatory body for private and voluntary sector providers:
'Healthcare is not a service which should be bought and sold in an unregulated market with individual patients being required to satisfy themselves about the safety of services being provided. Regulation is essential to provide public protection and as part of this it is important that patients and the public have access to full information about the services being provided.'
The regulatory framework for these sectors was patchy at best. Private and voluntary healthcare providers were required to be registered and inspected by health authorities under the Registered Homes Act 1984 when providing services such as hospice care, surgery under anaesthesia or abortion.
However, there were some significant exemptions from the requirement to register. For example, hospitals which were run by bodies established by Royal Charter were not required to be registered or inspected. Premises used predominately by doctors for consultation or by dentists for treatment were also exempted.
The NHS Executive published its response to the consultation in March 2000. Following consultation on the regulatory regime for private and voluntary sector providers, the Department of Health confirmed that registration and inspection requirements would be extended to cover additional services, including private, primary medical care premises.
While the preferred option during the consultation phase had been to establish an independent regulator of private and voluntary sector providers, the Department of Health established the National Care Standards Commission through the Care Standards Act 2000.
This regulated social care providers (in place of original plans for eight regional commissions) and voluntary and private sector providers of healthcare.
Regulating private and voluntary healthcare: a consultation document.
Department of Health; 1999.
Regulating private and voluntary healthcare: the way forward.
Department of Health; 2000.