Thank you to Sue Ineson, a leading expert on registration of health professionals and on the HPCA Act for providing this blog:

What is a layperson, why do we have lay people on the Board and what is their role?

The definition of a "layperson" is a person who is a non-expert in a given field of knowledge. In the HPCA Act a layperson is defined as a person who is neither registered nor qualified to be registered as a health practitioner.

Historically the traditional health professions, that is those who had a “defined body of knowledge and set of skills”, developed self regulation. This self regulation included setting standards for entry to the profession.

Over time governments have taken over some aspects of control as it was recognised that some professions were able to cause patient harm and therefore members of the public argued for more external accountability. There was also concern that the professional groups may unnecessarily restrict those who could enter the profession and they were centred on the interests of their members.

This lead to more public and governmental involvement in regulation of health professions – what has been termed “professionally led regulation in partnership with the public.

The HPCA Act follows this pattern, where the government defines the parameters of regulation through a statute. The Minister appoints members of the Responsible Authority (RA) or Board and can audit the RA if required. The public is represented by the appointment of lay members to RA governing Boards. There are also members of the profession on the Board so the profession continues to be involved in setting the standards for the profession.

So it is “a partnership where government confers certain rights and responsibilities to a profession which has demonstrated the capabilities to administer itself” where the aspects of professional self regulation remain, balanced by the laypersons on the Board within a statute set by the government.

A lay person role is to make sure the Board’s processes are open and fair and they bring a public perspective to the Board. They also bring additional skills and experiences that add to those of the professional members, such as wider knowledge of the health or education sectors, legal skills or governance experience and involvement in the wider community. Lay persons make sure the Board continues to focus on public protection and the primarily objective of the HPCA Act which is to focus on public health and safety by making sure practitioners are competent to practice.


Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council . (2006). Regulation of Health Professions in Ontario: New Directions. Toronto: Health Professions Advisory Council .

Thomson. Understanding Medical regulation - A guide to good Practice. London: HLPS Consulting.