UK health regulators including the NMC 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 NMC 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 yesterday, reiterated plans to bring back retired doctors to deal with a coronavirus outbreak.
The plans, which could see ’emergency registration’ of unregistered healthcare professionals, have prompted questions regarding revalidation.
Clarifying the plans to Nursing in Practice‘s sister publication 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.
At the latest count, 51 people had today tested positive for the virus in the UK.
The joint statement can be read in full on the NMC’s website.