Twelve health professions will come under new statutory regulation from next year, in a similar way to what exists for doctors and nurses.

The first group affected will be social workers and social care professionals, who will be covered from May 2013.

At a conference to prepare for the change, organised by the IMPACT trade union, barrister Rosemary Mallon said health staff should have nothing to fear from the new rules.

The professionals could be struck off the register for professional misconduct, or poor performance.

Unregistered social workers would be legally barred from practising after the end of May 2013.

The new rules will apply to social workers, social care professionals, dieticians, physiotherapists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, radiographers, podiatrists, medical scientists and clinical biochemists.

IMPACT is objecting to the €295 annual registration fee, saying it is a tax on employment.

The union’s Christina Carney is advising social workers not to pay the fee.