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Increased demand from GPs seeking legal support around coronavirus

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is experiencing an exceptionally high number of enquiries from medical professionals in light of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

Nearly half of the MDU members are in general practice and many of the calls are coming from GPs.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, GPs have been asked to change their work circumstances, including how they work or where they work. The MDU reports that the increase in calls focuses on changing work circumstances and retired professionals returning to work.

Dr Michael Devlin, head of professional standards and liaison at MDU told Pulse, GPs are seeking guidance from the MDU about the ethical consequences and the medico-legal implications of remote consultation and new work environments.

The MDU has also been fielding enquiries about what GPs should do if the NHS becomes overwhelmed and they get requests to treat friends and family.  Dr Devlin explained that the GMC guidance covers this situation. He said, ‘It’s something that would not normally be recommended, but in exceptional circumstances, it could be justified.’

As more people become ill from Covid-19 in the UK, Dr Devlin expects the MDU will be taking more calls from GPs working on the edge or slightly outside their area of expertise.

He said: ‘I think this will perhaps become more of an issue as the epidemic expands in the UK, and for example, returners to general practice may well be asked to go work in a hospital setting.

‘Again, the GMC recognises in exceptional circumstance you may need to be more flexible, and they will judge doctors accordingly with the context of the situation they are working in.’

Dr Devlin said he was struck by the professional dedication of the MDU members.

He said: ‘What we hear time and time again is that doctors are concerned to do the best for their patients. It’s rarely about their own personal circumstances but mainly about, we’ve got a number of patients, we are just worried about how we are going to see them, and how we are going to provide our usual level of service in those circumstances.’

To help deal with the increasing volume of calls, the MDU has set up a Covid-19 resources page on their website to answer members’ enquires more easily.