Healthcare regulators including the GMC and NMC have published a joint statement dealing with the regulation of healthcare professionals in light of coronavirus (Covid-19). We have been warned that transmission of the virus is “highly likely” to become widespread and, as a result, the burden on health and care services may increase significantly.
In a bid to provide reassurance to healthcare professionals on the frontline, the regulators have confirmed that the challenging circumstances will be taken in to account when considering any complaints made during the outbreak.
The regulators have stated that it may become necessary for healthcare professionals to “depart from established procedures in order to care for patients and people using health and social care services.” There is no guidance on what kind of departures may be deemed necessary and appropriate in light of the outbreak, but professionals will be expected to use their judgment.
We have already started to see the effects of Covid-19 on the healthcare system, with entire GP surgeries having to close temporarily. These kind of local level incidents are likely to increase as the spread of the virus continues.
NHS England has declared a level four incident, which is the highest of its kind and plans are being implemented to “Contain, Delay, and Mitigate” any outbreak.
It has been reported that junior doctors’ duties may be extended and recently retired doctors and nurses may be called back to assist with the outbreak. However, this gives rise to questions about registration and care professionals working within the limits of competence.
It remains to be seen how well the NHS will cope with the outbreak, especially as it is already so stretched. This is most certainly going to be a testing time for the NHS and its staff.
The regulators are expected to provide further guidance as the situation develops.
The government’s latest information and advice can be found here.