Provisional plans have been drawn up that would give the Nursing and Midwifery Council and other professional regulators increased flexibility to use their powers while also making them more accountable.

The law commissions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said the different regulators currently operated within a wide variety of legal frameworks, which had led to a “great deal of inconsistency in their powers, duties and responsibilities”.

They have been asked by ministers to look at how the regulation of health and social care professionals across the UK can be made “clearer, simpler, more modern and more consistent”.

The law commissions published proposals today setting out plans for a new single legal framework covering the nine professional regulators across the UK.

Under the proposals, the regulators would be given “greater autonomy to adopt their own approach to regulation in light of their circumstances and resources”. However, they would be required to hold a consultation whenever “issuing or varying anything which is binding, anything which sets a benchmark or standard, and a competency”.

In addition, it has been proposed that there would be a duty on each regulator to provide information to the public and registrants about its work.

Meanwhile, the government would be given “default powers” to intervene where a regulator has failed or is likely to fail to perform any of its functions. It would also be given the power to abolish or merge any of the existing regulators, or to establish a new regulatory body.

This would replace the current position in which the NMC, General Medical Council and other regulators are accountable to the Privy Council rather than a government department.

A consultation on the commission’s proposals will close on 31 May.

An NMC spokeswoman said: “The NMC will be responding to the consultation and we encourage all nurses and midwives to contribute. Our response will be published on our website in due course.”