I propose to take Questions Nos. 752, 753, 773 and 840 together.
The Health and Social Care Professionals Council, established in 2007 and the 12 registration boards being established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (the Act), will be responsible for protecting the public by regulating health and social care professionals in Ireland. The object of the Council is to protect the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among the registrants of the following 12 health and social care professions designated under the Act: clinical biochemists, dietitians, medical scientists, occupational therapists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists, radiographers, social care workers, social workers and speech and language therapists. In time, only registrants will be entitled to use these titles. The regulation of the 12 professions designated under the Act is being implemented on a phased basis and currently 2 registration boards have been established. These are the Social Workers Registration Board and the Radiographers Registration Board. It is intended that the remaining 10 registration boards and their registers will be established by end 2014.
While the proposed system of statutory registration applies, in the first instance, to 12 health and social care professions, the legislation empowers the Minister for Health to include, if he considers it appropriate and in the public interest to do so, additional health and social care professions in the regulatory system over time, as appropriate. Section 4 of the Act provides a definition of a health and social care profession and also sets out the factors governing the subsequent addition of any further professions into the regulatory system at a later date, including:
(a) The extent to which the profession has a defined scope of practice and applies a distinct body of knowledge;
(b) The extent to which the profession has established itself, including whether there is at least one professional body representing a significant proportion of the profession's practitioners;
(c) The existence of defined routes of entry into the profession and of independently assessed entry qualifications;
(d) The profession's commitment to continuous professional development;
(e) The degree of risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public from incompetent, unethical or impaired practice of the profession;
(f) Any other factors that the Minister for Health considers relevant.
My Department's priority is to develop statutory registration for the 12 professions designated under the Act. The extension of statutory registration arrangements under the Act for other health and social care professionals will not be considered until after regulatory frameworks in respect of the 12 designated professions are fully in place.
Questions relating to the recognition of creative arts therapies in the public health services, the need for such services and the direct employment of creative arts therapists are matters for the Health Service Executive in the first instance. Any proposals relating to grade and pay levels would, of course, require the approval of my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.