The government has laid out new plans for the regulation of the safety and quality of health and social services in preparation of the birth of the Care Quality Commission, which takes over from the Healthcare Commission tomorrow.

Under the new framework, all providers of health and social care in the UK will be expected to conform to a single set of safety and quality requirements to enable them to register with the regulator, with the aim of helping to foster a more uniform level of service standard across the board.

This means that, for the first time, GPs and dentists will have to register with the watchdog as well as their own individual professional governing bodies, so that the Care Quality Commission is able to operate as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for health and social services regulation in the UK.

The move to include primary care was fuelled by the growing range of services, including minor operations, that it provides in healthcare today, because it is “important that patients have the same degree of protection, regardless of where they receive their care”, the Department of Health explained.

The new system will replace the previous different sets of requirements and standards in place for each type of healthcare provider, instead bringing them all together under the new National Minimum Standards and Regulations. The new Commission is now drawing up guidance on how it will judge compliance with these regulations, and discipline those who fail to meet the new safety and quality criteria.

According to the Care Quality Commission’s chief executive Cynthia Bower, the new system provides “a historic opportunity” and she says the regulator is “determined to ensure that we expand on the work done to date by the Department and build a robust framework of assurance of quality across all of health and social care”.

The registration framework will be introduced from 2010/11 subject to parliamentary approval, but NHS registration against requirements for healthcare associated infections such as the superbug Clostridium difficile will be implemented from April this year, the DH said.