47a. Professional standards in integrated care boards: principles

This information refers to professional standards in integrated care boards (ICBs), the statutory instruments underpinning them and the support available.

High professional standards are integral to quality and governance in any healthcare organisation regardless of statute or professional role of the workers. ICBs should identify who in their organisation is responsible for professional standards, for example their Chief Medical Officer.

Professional standards for doctors are underpinned by the Responsible Officer Regulations (amended 2013) The Performers Lists Regulations set out further statutory requirements for GPs, dentists and optical performers. Both sets of regulations help to reinforce an organisation’s clinical governance processes.

The RO regulations describe when a healthcare organisation must nominate a responsible officer and take on the status of ‘designated body’ under the regulations. An ICB must do so if it engages or contracts with one or more doctors whose prescribed connection is not correctly made elsewhere. Many ICBs already meet this criteria. For those that do not, it is almost certain that they will in time. ICBs are therefore encouraged to proactively engage with the regulations, to enable development of the necessary policies as an integral part of their overall governance framework, before these become a statutory requirement.

Professional standards processes are not new and there are several resources available to support ICBs:

  • Responsible officer training. Incoming chief medical officers should seek out and undertake the responsible officer training resourced by NHS England.
  • Regional responsible officer. An ICB’s responsible officer’s prescribed connection will be to the regional NHS England Higher Level Responsible Officer (HLRO). This brings support from the HLRO, their team and the wider professional standards community within NHS England (coordinated nationally by a central team).
  • Responsible officer networks. The regional team also coordinate networking between the responsible officers of their region.
  • NHS England Professional Standards website pages, containing several key documents, including the Responsible Officer and Appraisal Network Information Sheets which provide guidance on issues arising in the system.

This information sheet is relevant to NHS England regions and the Integrated Care Boards aligned to them.