The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant difficulties for governments in attempting to protect the general public from the impact of COVID-19.
In particular, the pandemic has created significant challenges for governments in ensuring that there are sufficient numbers of front line healthcare professionals available to treat patients affected by the pandemic.
The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (the Act) includes provisions to simplify the process by which certain professionals who were previously registered with a professional regulator can re-register with that regulator. These measures are designed to facilitate recruitment and re-employment of much needed professionals in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The UK has also recently introduced and passed legislation to assist professional regulators in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key registration provisions of the Act and the UK legislation
The Act amends the primary legislation governing inter alia, doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other health and social care professionals, in order to allow for previous registrants to apply to the respective regulators to have their names re-entered in the relevant register, on a temporary basis.
The provisions provide that the proposed registration is temporary and is to last until 31 July 2020 but the Minister for Health may extend this deadline. No fees (including retention fees) are to be charged in respect of this temporary registration.
The UK legislation appears to be somewhat wider in its scope in that, unlike the Irish legislation, it is not confined to previously registered professionals but appears to facilitate the registration of certain persons as professionals, where the relevant regulator has been advised and is satisfied that an emergency has occurred, and that the regulator considers that the applicants are fit, proper and suitably experienced to be registered. The UK legislation also expressly provides that groups of persons can be registered this way and that professionals can be registered subject to conditions.
The healthcare registration provisions of the Act are a welcome development in that they will allow for re-registration and re-deployment of previously registered health professionals, in order to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and bolster the health care workforce. However, these provisions appear to be narrower in scope when compared with the UK legislative provisions and it remains to be seen whether the Irish Government will introduce further legislation to enhance the powers of professional regulators to register professionals, in order to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information please get in touch with Stephen McLoughlin (Regulatory).
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