Regulating healthcare professionals


Following is a question by the Professor Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (May 2):


     It is learnt that members of the nursing and supplementary medical professions have all along been requesting the Government to amend the relevant ordinances so as to enhance the credibility, transparency and governance capabilities of the Nursing Council of Hong Kong (NCHK) and the Supplementary Medical Professions Council (SMPC), and to achieve professional autonomy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that a number of amendments to the  Nurses  Registration  Ordinance  (Cap. 164) were passed by the former Legislative Council in as early as June 1997, including the addition of section 3(2)(ca), which stipulates that six of the members of NCHK should be elected among registered nurses and enrolled nurses in a manner provided for by the Ordinance, but this provision has not yet been implemented, of the progress of the work undertaken by the authorities for implementing the provision and the timetable for the implementation of the provision; and

(2) whether it will consider amending the Supplementary Medical Professions Ordinance (Cap. 359) to stipulate that the chairmanship of the five Boards under SMPC shall be taken up by members of the respective supplementary medical professions for the embodiment of professional autonomy; if so, of the details and the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



     In June 2017, the Government published the Report of the Strategic Review on Healthcare Manpower Planning and Professional Development (the Strategic Review), which primarily covers 13 healthcare professions that are subject to statutory registration, including nurses and the five allied healthcare professions (namely occupational therapists, physiotherapists, medical laboratory technologists, optometrists and radiographers). The Strategic Review put forward five recommendations on manpower planning, and another five on regulation and development of the healthcare professions. It has also looked into specific issues of concern in individual professions (profession-specific issues).

     As regards the composition of the regulatory bodies of healthcare professionals (regulatory bodies), the Strategic Review recommends that the minimum lay membership of regulatory bodies should be 25% so as to enhance their credibility and accountability. The Strategic Review considers that the regulatory bodies may, where necessary, make suggestions on refinement to their respective composition to ensure appropriate involvement of lay persons.

     The Food and Health Bureau (FHB) will shortly invite regulatory bodies, including the Nursing Council of Hong Kong (NCHK), and the Supplementary Medical Professions Council (SMPC) and its five boards, to follow up and consider the recommendations of the Strategic Review and the profession-specific issues, with a view to submitting proposals after consulting their respective professions. The Government will conduct a comprehensive review of the existing legislation governing various healthcare professions after taking into account profession-specific issues, present circumstances, international practices, and possible legislative amendments arising from the implementation of the proposals.

(1) During the Strategic Review, we note the concern of the nursing sector on the progress of introducing six elected members into NCHK.

     After enactment of the Nurses Registration (Amendment) Ordinance 1997 (the Amendment Ordinance), the Government started to work on the drafting of subsidiary legislation for election of the six members of NCHK. Back then, legal advice further pointed out that the subsidiary legislation could not be introduced until appropriate amendments were made to the Nurses Registration Ordinance, which should include stipulation of clearer empowering provisions in the primary legislation to prescribe the grounds for disqualifying elected members.

     As mentioned above, FHB will invite NCHK to submit proposals to the Government to follow up on the recommendations of the Strategic Review and related matters. The issue of the outstanding provisions of the Amendment Ordinance will then be dealt with together.

(2) During the Strategic Review, there were suggestions that the Chairman of each of the boards under SMPC should be a member of their respective allied health professions.

     Section 5 of the Supplementary Medical Professions Ordinance (Cap. 359) (the Ordinance) provides that the Chairman of each of the five boards under SMPC, namely the Occupational Therapists Board, Physiotherapists Board, Medical Laboratory Technologists Board, Optometrists Board and Radiographers Board, should be appointed from among the members of SMPC. Section 3 of the Ordinance provides that SMPC shall consist of not more than 18 members, including a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman, not more than four public officers, three persons nominated by universities (one from each of the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University), five practitioners (one from each of the five supplementary medical professions), and four other persons who are not public officers. Section 5 of the Ordinance stipulates that the Chairman appointed by the Chief Executive from among the members of the SMPC shall not be "the person appointed from each supplementary medical profession".

     At present, the appointment of the Board Chairman is made on ad personam basis, taking into consideration the candidates' abilities, expertise, experience, integrity and commitment to public service. The candidates' professional background can be one of the considerations. The decision of appointment is made after all factors have been fully considered.

     As mentioned above, FHB will invite SMPC and its five boards to submit proposals to the Government to follow up on the recommendations of the Strategic Review and related matters, which include those on the composition of SMPC and its Boards.


Last update: 2018-5-3