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July’s Medical Law News

GMC reaches further, GPhC reforms and revalidation struggles for nurses

Each month, the team at Medic Assistance Scheme finds articles and stories from the past few weeks that will help medical practitioners to stay on top of fitness to practise trends in their profession. If you have concerns relating to anything you’ve read on our website, contact us today.

GMC to regulate physicians and anaesthesia associates

Sources: Pulse (18/07/19), OnMedica (19/07/19), Practice Business (19/07/19)

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that the General Medical Council (GMC) will be responsible for the regulation of physician associates and anaesthesia associates. The GMC said it is pleased with the decision and Charlie Massey, GMC Chief Executive, stated, “in accepting responsibility for regulating these professions, we will also make sure that excellence is maintained in education for both doctors and medical associate professionals, so that all trainees receive the time and support they need to learn and provide safe care”.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has come out in opposition to the move though, expressing concerns about the GMC’s already “significant scope of work” and the potential impact on doctors. Though the GMC has made it clear that any regulation costs should not be borne by doctors, the BMA has warned that the GMC “should not be diverted from its efforts” regarding medical education and training, setting professional standards, and acting on concerns.

Our take

The introduction of a regulatory body for physician and anaesthesia associates is an important milestone for both professions. Both PAs and AAs play a significant role in healthcare and as such it is right that they are subject to professional regulation. Proper regulation is crucial for ensuring these professionals can continue to work to the highest standards with adequate support, facilitating excellent levels of patient care and career progression.

Although the British Medical Association is opposed to the GMC as the regulator of choice, it is important for the BMA now to work together with the relevant bodies to ensure that both PAs and AAs are well supported throughout this transition, as well as ensuring that doctors are not negatively affected by the changes. The GMC has, to date, only regulated doctors and so it will be crucial for the relevant medical associations to collaborate positively to ensure that PAs, AAs, and doctors continue to receive the highest standards of support and regulation.

GPhC reforms allow fitness-to-practise resolutions without hearing

Sources: Pharmaceutical Journal (09/07/19), Chemist and Druggist (16/07/19)

The government has put forward new regulation reforms which are set to allow The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to conclude fitness-to-practices cases without conducting a full panel hearing. This is already the case for some other medical regulators, such as the GMC. The GPhC will also be required to give patients and family members progress updates on fitness-to-practise cases in which they have an interest.

The reforms outline several changes, which include:

  • using case examiners to consider complaints and resolve them on a consensual basis;
  • including mediation as part of the fitness-to-practise process;
  • automatically removing registrants from the register where they have been convicted of a serious criminal offence in the UK.

The aim of the reforms is to avoid “the current bureaucratic, time consuming processes that are burdensome and can be stressful for patients, their families, registrants and employers”.

Our take

For registrants who find out that they are the subject of a fitness to practise investigations, the investigation and hearing process can be a very stressful time. This stress is often unnecessary in instances where the incident being investigated was a one-off incident and the registrant poses no further risk to the public.

For the GPhC to be able to conduct fitness to practise investigations whilst bypassing the need for a formal hearing is a positive step forward, and this new approach of resolving cases consensually should minimise distress to registrants. Although in many cases it is readily apparent what the likely outcome of the fitness to practise investigation will be, the process is currently subject to extended wait times for a hearing date. This causes additional, unnecessary stress to pharmacists and their families.

Healthcare professionals should still expect to see hearings utilised in more serious or complex investigations, but removing this as a necessity for simpler cases will allow the GPhC to invest more time and resources into resolving more complex cases. It is always wise to seek legal advice during an investigation, even if you are unsure whether you will face a hearing or not.

44% of nurses and midwives struggle to find time for CPD

Sources: Nursing In Practice (18/07/19)

An independent evaluation has shown that almost half (44%) of nurses and midwives have said they find it difficult to make time to keep up with continued personal development (CPD) as required for revalidation. Social research institute Ipsos MORI found that some nurses reported having to complete some of their CPD requirements in their own time, and in some cases at their own financial cost.

The report outlined concerns regarding the quantity and quality of feedback being collected for revalidation, with registrants employed in smaller practices sometimes struggling to collect the required amount of feedback. Suggestions for improvement include reviewing how to increase the quality of revalidation without asking registrants to commit more hours to it, or to complete additional requirements.

Our take

Continuous Personal Development is an extremely important exercise for nurses and midwives, as it requires healthcare professionals to keep a record of what they experience, learn and apply. Not only is this beneficial to the individual, it is also important for maintaining high standards of patient care and ensuring the profession continues to be held in high esteem by the general public.

That almost half of nurses and midwives are struggling to find the time for this important practice is concerning, and they should not be required to complete the steps for CPD in their own time. If nurses are struggling to find enough time to complete their CPD requirements, this should be communicated to their employer at the soonest opportunity and it is then incumbent on the employer to ensure medical staff have adequate time to complete CPD work within their regular working hours.

Related services

The Medic Assistance Scheme’s lawyers can help medical professionals in many of the areas referred to in these news topics. See below for the services that relate to June’s stories:

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