Perceptions of Professional Regulation’s Effects on UK Practitioners’ Professional Identities

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Michael WARREN, Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, United Kingdom
What is the relationship between professional regulation and professional identity, and why does it matter? The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care is developing an evidence base in this area, to help us understand how policy decisions about who and how to regulate may ultimately affect the quality of patient care through their impact on professional identity.

This paper draws on our own literature review and a piece of qualitative research we commissioned on the views of UK healthcare practitioners. The literature review aimed to identify the many factors affecting professional identity, situating regulation’s role amongst those factors (such as media portrayals of practitioners), analysing sources from academic research to organisational policy documents. The qualitative research, carried out by independent researcher Dr Simon Christmas, explored the perceptions of professional identity of practitioners from four differing fields and regulatory status (pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychotherapists and acupuncturists).

Our research suggests that professional identity is a contributing factor to good patient care, and is shaped by factors such as societal perceptions and the blurring of boundaries between roles on multi-disciplinary teams. Relatedly, we discovered some inter-professional tensions relating to identity and regulation as some non-statutorily regulated practitioners suggested their techniques were being ‘co-opted’. Professional regulation appears to have some influence on practitioners’ identities, but this is mostly indirect. We also found that the regulator’s register can play a role in practitioners’ identity by providing a tool for like-minded practitioners to validate their place in a community of practice. In this session, we will discuss how practitioners may perceive that their professional identity is affected by issues of societal status and legitimacy. We will look at how regulation’s role is primarily a public protection tool, not a badge-of-status, and ask what should be expected of regulation.