General Medical Council – review of fitness to practise cases in the face of coronavirus
In the light of the coronavirus pandemic much has been written about the Department of Health’s scheme to allow retired medical practitioners temporary re-registration with the General Medical Council (“GMC”) for the purpose of assisting during the current crisis. However, there has been less publicity in relation to doctors who are currently registered, but who are the subject of practice restrictions that prohibit them from joining the fight against the virus, at least in a full capacity.
Very recently the GMC released guidance to their decision makers in relation to cases where the registrant has practice restrictions, whether by way of a substantive decision imposed by the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal, an interim order, or undertakings.
The guidance can be accessed here.
The guidance targets the following scenarios:
- Cases where the doctor’s working environment has been changed by coronavirus so that the restrictions are no longer effective
- where the doctor’s practice is restricted by way of conditions or undertakings, rather than suspension
- where the restrictions are interim rather than substantive sanctions
- where the restrictions were imposed on the basis solely of the public interest rather than there being underlying concerns about the clinical competency of the doctor
- cases where the restrictions that have little time to run anyway; and
- cases where remediation already undertaken might indicate less need for the restrictions.
The guidance stresses that all these situations must be balanced against the usual need to protect and promote public safety, confidence in the medical profession and to maintain proper standards of conduct in the profession.
It would seem that where the restrictions are imposed on the basis solely of the public interest, without there being any concerns as to the doctor’s clinical abilities, there is now a real prospect of having an order of conditions or undertakings amended so as to allow a return to frontline medical practice. However, in relation to suspended practitioners, it would seem that an interim suspension on a public interest basis will be easier to amend than a substantive suspension imposed on the same basis, but as a sanction.
However, consideration should also be given to cases where the doctor has already built up significant remediation; applications for the amendment of restrictions that might have appeared optimistic prior to the coronavirus outbreak might now be more readily entertained if the registrant can, perhaps with the assistance of a letter from the current or potential employer, demonstrate that their services would be of immediate benefit on the front line in the fight against coronavirus.
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.