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These are unprecedented times and it is anticipated that the crisis is going to place serious strain on the healthcare system. For those on the frontline, this is a very concerning situation.

Doctors may be required to alter the way they practice during this fast-moving situation. This has been acknowledged by the healthcare regulators, including the GMC. The GMC has stated, “as the situation develops, some doctors will need to depart from established procedures to care for patients.”

As the pace of the coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, so is the advice being issued. This is why it is important to keep up to date with official advice published by the government.

Undoubtedly, medical professionals will have a number of queries arising out of the coronavirus outbreak. We have put together an overview of the key legal and practical issues doctors may need to consider in the coming weeks.

Keep yourself safe and well

In these difficult times, it is important to take appropriate measures if you have pre-existing conditions. You should follow current government guidance. It may be necessary to discuss this with your colleagues or employer.

Keep up to date

It is sensible to check government updates on a daily basis. Not only do you have a duty to follow current guidance, but it will also help you answer any questions you receive from patients.

Clinical competence

As the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK becomes more widespread, recently retired doctors may return to practice, medical students may be asked to step up and current doctors may be asked to practice outside of their normal field of practice. It remains important that you do not place patients at risk. If you feel that a patient may be exposed to risk due to your own or a colleagues’ lack of knowledge and expertise, then it is important to speak up about your concerns. In particular, any medical students asked to step up to assist during the outbreak, will not be registered to practice as a doctor and must not be asked to undertake any duties of a doctor.

Accountability and raising concerns

Despite the considerable pressures during this difficult time, doctors will remain accountable for their actions. If something does not go to plan during the outbreak, you may be asked to explain your actions in a particular situation. However, the GMC has confirmed that the extraordinary circumstances will be taken into consideration.

Record keeping

As ever, record-keeping remains an integral part of caring for patients. Whilst a serious outbreak of Covid-19 wold result in a massive strain on the system on the professionals within the system, doctors must continue to keep clear and detailed records. This is particularly important in the event of any adverse consequences, where investigations may need to be undertaken.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our experienced healthcare solicitors on 01202 786171 or email