Deconcentrating regulation in low- and middle-income country health systems: A proposed ambidextrous solution to problems with professional regulation for doctors and nurses in Kenya and Uganda

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Abstract

Background: Regulation can improve professional practice and patient care but is often weakly implemented and enforced in health systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Taking a de-centred and frontline perspective, we examine national regulatory actors’ and health professionals’ views and experiences of health professional regulation in Kenya and Uganda and discuss how it might be improved in LMICs more generally.
Methods: We conducted large-scale research on professional regulation for doctors and nurses (including midwives) in Uganda and Kenya during 2019-2021. We interviewed 29 national regulatory stakeholders and 47 sub-national regulatory actors, doctors, and nurses. We then ran a national survey of Kenyan and Ugandan doctors and nurses, which received 3466 responses. We thematically analysed qualitative data, conducted an exploratory factor analysis of survey data, and validated findings in four focus group discussions.
Results: Kenyan and Ugandan regulators were generally perceived as resource- constrained, remote, and out of touch with health professionals. This resulted in weak regulation that did little to prevent malpractice and inadequate professional education and training. However, interviewees were positive about online licencing and regulation where they had relationships with accessible regulators. Building on these positive findings, we propose an ambidextrous approach to improving regulation in LMIC health systems, which we term deconcentrating regulation. This involves developing online licencing and streamlining regulatory administration to make efficiency savings, freeing regulatory resources. These resources should then be used to develop connected subnational regulatory offices, enhance relations between regulators and health professionals, and address problems at local level.
Conclusion: Professional regulation for doctors and nurses in Kenya and Uganda is generally perceived as weak. Yet these professionals are more positive about online licencing and regulation where they have relationships with regulators. Building on these positive findings, we propose deconcentrating regulation as a solution to regulatory problems in LMICs. However, we note resource, cultural and political barriers to its effective implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalHuman Resources For Health
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • regulation
  • professional regulation
  • medicine
  • nursing
  • decentralisation
  • frontline governance
  • decentred regulation
  • LMIC
  • Uganda
  • Kenya

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