This site is intended for health professionals only


GMC reassures GPs who ‘depart from procedures’ to combat coronavirus



UK health regulators have moved to reassure NHS professionals that they will take the ‘challenging circumstances’ into account when investigating coronavirus-related complaints.

In a joint statement released today, the GMC and 10 other health regulators expressed that they understand that an outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the UK could see health professionals forced to make changes to their practice.

The regulators’ statement said: ‘We recognise that in highly challenging circumstances, professionals may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for patients and people using health and social care services.’

The regulators said their standards ‘are designed to be flexible and to provide a framework for decision-making in a wide range of situations’, reminding health professionals to stick with ‘key principles’ of keeping people safe; practise in line with best available evidence; work within limits of their competence; and have appropriate indemnity arrangements.

The statement added: ‘We recognise that the individuals on our registers may feel anxious about how context is taken into account when concerns are raised about their decisions and actions in very challenging circumstances.

‘Where a concern is raised about a registered professional, it will always be considered on the specific facts of the case, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working. We would also take account of any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.’

The Government’s action plan for tackling a coronavirus outbreak, released today, reiterated plans to bring back retired doctors to deal with a coronavirus outbreak.

The plans, which could see ’emergency registration’ of unlicensed doctors, have prompted questions regarding revalidation.

Clarifying the plans to Pulse, GMC medical director Professor Colin Melville said: ‘If these powers were activated it would mean we could, if necessary, grant temporary registration for the duration of the emergency to certain groups of appropriate people, to supplement doctor numbers and provide cover in a range of roles.

‘The first group we would grant temporary registration to is doctors who have recently relinquished their licence to practice, for example because they have recently retired.’

Professor Melville said these powers could be activated by the health secretary ‘in the event of an emergency’.

He added: ‘We understand that there could be health or personal reasons why some of those doctors would not feel they could return to work and they would be able to opt out.’

The Government’s action plan is preparing for a worst-case scenario where up to a fifth of the population may be off work due to a coronavirus outbreak, suggesting GPs may not need to sign fit notes for absences longer than seven days.

At the latest count, 51 people had today tested positive for the virus in the UK.

Joint statement from Chief Executives of statutory regulators of health and care professionals

We hold the registers of health and care professionals in the UK. We support those professionals to deliver better, safer care by setting the standards they need to meet, to act in the best interests of patients and people who use health and social care services at all times.

As registered professionals, the first concern of the individuals on our registers will be the care of their patients and people who use health and social care services. We encourage health and care professionals, working in partnership with each other and people using services, to use their professional judgement to assess risk to deliver safe care informed by any relevant guidance and the values and principles set out in their professional standards.

We recognise that in highly challenging circumstances, professionals may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for patients and people using health and social care services. Our regulatory standards are designed to be flexible and to provide a framework for decision-making in a wide range of situations. They support professionals by highlighting the key principles which should be followed, including the need to work cooperatively with colleagues to keep people safe, to practise in line with the best available evidence, to recognise and work within the limits of their competence, and to have appropriate indemnity arrangements relevant to their practice.

We recognise that the individuals on our registers may feel anxious about how context is taken into account when concerns are raised about their decisions and actions in very challenging circumstances. Where a concern is raised about a registered professional, it will always be considered on the specific facts of the case, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working. We would also take account of any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.

We may issue profession specific guidance to registrants to provide additional support where that is needed.

Signed by:

General Chiropractic Council

General Dental Council

General Medical Council

General Optical Council

General Osteopathic Council

General Pharmaceutical Council

Health and Care Professions Council

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland

Scottish Social Services Council

Social Work England