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By Helen Caulfield

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That is the function of the professional bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives. Summary • • The NMC is the largest UK regulator of health professionals. Its principal functions are to establish standards for education, practice, conduct and registration. • Its overriding objective is to provide public protection. • The NMC has a legal duty to protect the public rather than promote the profession. • Its objective is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of persons using nursing and midwifery services.

The First Pillar of Accountability: Professional Accountability 21 Summary • • • • • There are eight UK-wide regulators for health professions. Regulatory bodies set standards for education for the profession. There is a register of those who are fit to practice. There are standards of practice for each profession. These bodies can remove registrants for misconduct, ill-health or lack of competence. • Since 1999 new professions can be regulated on a country-bycountry basis. • An overarching regulator will streamline the functions of the regulatory bodies.

Public policy can act as a brake on the ethical principles of autonomy and best interests by pronouncing that societal values are of a higher order. Most decisions about this balance are decided by the law, either through legislation or case law. There may be situations where the ethics for the individual conflict with the ethics of society. Current debate centres around the extent to which resources can be limited even though this may conflict with the wishes and values of the individual. In other cases a person may refuse all treatment including nursing care.

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