Are Health and Social Care Regulations "Red Tape"?

Right now the Red Tape Challenge is looking at regulations and laws related to “The Healthy Living and Social Care”:  You can access the website here. Your can download this briefing as a Word document at the bottom of this page.

What is the Red Tape Challenge?
In 2011 the Government launched the Red Tape Challenge on a website ‘challenging the public to help us cut unnecessary regulations.' In principle reducing unnecessary bureaucracy sounds like a good idea. The important question is whether the regulations being included in the Red Tape Challenge are unnecessary burdens or are they important processes and procedures that ensure we are treated with fairness, dimity, respect and equality.

How does the Red Tape Challenge work?
The Red Tape Challenge is not like a traditional consultation which identifies areas for change, sets out proposals and then asks for comments. Instead it’s an open website inviting public comment on the identified regulations.  Around 20,000 different regulations touching on a whole range of issues have been put up on the website for comment. The comments then feed into the Government's review of the regulations. The Health and Social Care theme has just gone live and is open for five weeks until 11 December.

What does this Red Tape Challenge Cover?
This covers over 500 regulations relating to Public Health, Quality of Care/Mental Health, the NHS and Professional Standards. The Government says “We want to identify which of these regulations should be scrapped or improved to boost growth and jobs and give health professionals more time to care for patients, without weakening necessary public health safeguards.” BIHR thinks it’s important that people look at the specific regulations the Government is reviewing to decide if they really will reduce red tape or if they actually have other important functions.

Why is this a human rights issue?

The list of regulations being considered for removal include some which may have an impact on ensuring the basic human rights of people in vulnerable situations are respected, protected and fulfilled.  For example regulations identified as “red tape” under the heading of Quality of Care / Mental Health, include:

  • The regulation allows the Care Quality Commission to monitor, and access for monitoring purposes, people who are being deprived of their liberty. It also introduces the requirement to report to the Department of Health.
  • The regulation outlining requirements for people who assess Deprivations of Liberties, e.g. annual refresher training and being subject to Criminal Records Bureau Check.
  • Primary legislation which introduced Independent Mental Capacity Advocate's as safeguards for those who have no one to speak on their behalf; these regulations define two areas in which they may be used - abuse and reviews.
  • The regulations which ensure that Independent Mental Health Advocates, who undertake a specific role under the Mental Health Act, are of an adequate standard.
  • Regulations which make provision about support to be provided to certain children and young people who are no longer looked after by a local authority.


There may be issues related to respecting, protecting and fulfill people’s basic human rights. These include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • regulating the right to liberty appropriately (Art 5 in the Human Rights Act, HRA)
  • ensuring those in vulnerable situations are protected from abuse and neglect and are not subjected to breaches of their rights to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (Art 3 in the HRA) or to physical and mental well-being (Art 8 HRA)


BIHR will be taking a look at the regulations in detail in coming weeks and preparing briefings with key messages people can use to respond.

What can you do to #Act?


  • Watch this space for BIHR’s briefing with some key messages about the human rights implications of the review
  • Comment on the regulations/laws identified by the Government on the website or send a private contribution to
  • Spread the word! Let others know this review is taking place and encourage them to speak up for regulations that protect our rights.


For regular updates on BIHR’ work and human rights issues in the UK follow us on Twitter: @BIHRhumanrights

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Published: November 7, 2012

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