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June’s Medical Law News

Healthcare regulators issue a joint statement, a paramedic is suspended, and a senior nurse is struck off

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.

Healthcare regulators issue joint statement on reflection

Sources: OnMedica (18/06/19), Nursing Times (18/06/19), Dentistry.co.uk (20/06/19), Pharmacy Business (18/06/19)

Nine of the healthcare regulators have issued a joint statement on the importance and advantages of healthcare professionals practising good reflection. The statement asserts that individual and group reflection should include the recording and documenting of insights to support their professional learning and development and be used to identify opportunities to improve. In some disciplines, such as medicine, reflection is also a requirement for revalidation. The regulators have also emphasised that reflections should focus on the learnings and be anonymised, rather than including any identifiable details of those involved or the event. The regulators also advised following a structured, systematic approach to reflection in order to get the most out of it. 

The statement is signed by the chief executives of the General Chiropractic Council, General Dental Council, General Medical Council (GMC), General Optical Council, General Osteopathic Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, Health and Care Professions Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.

Our take

It is really positive to see that multiple regulators are collaborating to help foster and develop an open, honest culture for reflection. Reflection is an extremely important part of healthcare as it not only helps individuals to develop, but also benefits patients by improving public services and demonstrates that healthcare professionals see learning and development as a continuous requirement for their work. It will be important for employers to ensure that healthcare professionals have adequate time to complete reflective practices, even as services are stretched and challenged. It is also incredibly important that the regulators stick to their word about openness in reflection, and that they make an effort to ensure that reflection is a practice which allows medical professionals to improve their skills, rather than being something used against them in fitness to practise cases.

Paramedic suspended after patient dies of sepsis

Sources: East Anglian Daily Times (20/06/19), Daily Gazette (20/06/19)

Paramedic Kielye Mitchell, of Colchester Ambulance Station, has been suspended for one year after she failed to report a patient’s deteriorating condition to Colchester Hospital. The 60-year-old female patient died of sepsis hours after being admitted to hospital. Ms. Mitchell was found to have made several serious errors, including failing to notice the patient’s rash (despite it being mentioned in the 111 call), walking the patient out of her house though she was suffering from low blood pressure, refusing to use blue lights on the way to the hospital, and failing to record the patient’s vital signs over a period of nearly two and a half hours.

Prior to the incident, Ms. Mitchell had an unblemished record for 16 years. She also continued to work without any issues for 18 months after the incident, and participated in courses to help in future situations. As a result, the HCPC determined that she should not be struck off, but instead handed a 1 year suspension from work. This suspension will be reviewed in 1 years’ time to determine if Ms. Mitchell is fit to return to work. 

Our take

Although Ms. Mitchell’s actions were ultimately found to be inappropriate, it is positive to see her completion of several courses to prevent such an incident from happening again. It is clear that the HCPC agrees, and this case is a good example of a registrant showing active remorse for a potentially career-ending incident and receiving a lesser sentence as a result. It is important for registrants to be able to demonstrate a strong record of past and current work in order to reduce the severity of a sentence, should such an unfortunate incident occur.

Senior nurse struck off for bullying and aggressive behaviour

Sources: Nursing Notes (18/06/19), The Press And Journal (05/06/19)

A former Director of Nursing has been struck off following incidences of bullying, intimidation, and aggressive behaviour. At her fitness to practise hearing, Hazel Dinnie was found to have “deliberately bullied her staff to the point where they did not want to report concerns or near misses” and “frightened her staff to the extent that they considered leaving their roles”. Ms. Dinnie was not found to have caused any actual patient harm. The NMC concluded that Ms. Dinnie had created a toxic culture and atmosphere at Albyn Hospital in Aberdeen, and had failed to act professionally and appropriately as a leader. 

At the hearing, Ms. Dinnie was given an interim suspension order and has a period of 18 months in which to appeal the decision. If she does not lodge an appeal then a substantive striking off order will come into effect.

A spokesperson for Albyn Hospital said, “While it is inappropriate for us to comment on individuals, we would like to stress we promote a culture of caring and respect for everyone within our hospital and will always take action on anything that falls short of these expectations”.

Our take

By fostering a culture where employees did not feel able to communicate in an open and honest manner, Ms. Dinnie could have placed patients at risk of otherwise avoidable harm. Although it is concerning to see a former Director of Nursing to be found guilty of such serious allegations, it is reassuring to see the NMC taking strong action in the case, making it clear that there is no place for any sort of bullying or harassment in a hospital workplace. Healthcare professionals need to be aware that fitness to practise investigations can occur not only in cases where a patient is harmed. They can also occur in cases where the professional’s actions make it harder for their team as a whole to offer a good standard of care or where their actions are at risk of alienating members of the public.

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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