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January’s medical law news

The UK’s first nursing associates & bad news for British Cycling

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.

Qualified nursing associates are now able to register with the NMC

Source: Nursing Times (28/1/2019)

The first wave of newly-qualified nursing associates are now able to register with the NMC, following the completion of a two-year course that was launched in 2017. Of the 2,000 students who undertook the pilot course, around 1,800 are expected to register with the NMC in the coming months, though the body said that it would be impossible to say exactly when this first wave of registration would be complete. Experts have also warned that nursing associates should not be asked to fill vacant nursing roles; their role is intended to be supportive rather than an equivalent.

Our take

Adding qualified support to stretched nursing staff will be a positive step as long as the warnings not to misuse nursing associates are heeded. As registered members of the NMC, nursing associates will have to adhere to strict standards, just like nurses. Should they be put under undue pressure, their employers will run the risk of exposing them to compromising situations. If the emergence of nursing associates is handled well, however, their presence should make it easier for nurses to focus their attention where it’s most needed; on patients. It is also important that nursing associates are made aware of the expectations regarding NMC registration and revalidation, as they are unlikely to have had to deal with this responsibility before.

Controversy over top cycling doctor’s involvement with performance-enhancing drugs

Source: BBC News (14/1/2019)

Richard Freeman, former doctor for Team Sky and British Cycling, has been accused of ordering testosterone to enhance an athlete’s performance. The allegation has been made by the General Medical Council following an investigation. Freeman’s case will be investigated further at an MPTS tribunal scheduled to run from 6th February to 5th March.

The case is confused by allegations that Freeman lied about the order of testosterone and attempted to cover up his order by passing it off as a supplier error. Freeman denies the allegations that have been brought against him, but British Cycling supports the GMC’s investigation into the matter, having brought fitness to practise concerns to the council in the first place.

Our take

As the BBC’s editor points out, this is not the story that Britain’s hugely successful competitive cycling community wanted to see at the start of the New Year. Freeman’s actions have the potential to bring the sport further into disrepute, following other high profile drugs cases in recent years.

For medical professionals, it is important to note that this case has been complicated by the mixed information that has come from Freeman over the course of the investigation so far. Dishonesty is a crucial fitness to practise standard for doctors to abide by and if Freeman is found to have lied throughout the investigation, then he is at serious risk of a sanction of erasure.

Pharmacist found to be putting patients at risk continuously through a series of lapses

Source: Chemist+Druggist (25/1/2019)

The GPhC’s fitness to practise committee has struck Mr Oluyomi Olugbenga Adenaike off their register, having upheld allegations that he recorded a technician as the responsible pharmacist at his pharmacy on three occasions and ran an online pharmacy with “multiple failures of governance.” The GPhC did note that Mr Adenaike’s wife leaving the online pharmacy business was likely to have impacted him negatively and that there had been no other fitness to practise concerns in his 28 years of practice.

Leaving his pharmacy without a responsible pharmacist, failing to keep adequate records, neglecting his duties and failing to run the online pharmacy business properly all amounted to a persistent risk of harm to patients, according to the GPhC.

Our take

Mr Adenaike’s case is a reminder of the various standards and responsibilities that regulatory bodies expect medical professionals to uphold. Any one of the allegations upheld against Mr Adenaike could have prompted disciplinary action from the GPhC, and the combination of allegations that were found proven were adjudged to be putting patients at risk “persistently.”

A community pharmacist cannot afford to neglect their responsibilities with regards to oversight of their pharmacy and the upkeep of paperwork. It is essential that struggling pharmacists make use of the support available and don’t let the situation progress to the point where the GPhC has no choice but to step in.

Radiographer placed under supervision after HCPC investigation

Source: Press and Journal (29/1/2019)

A volunteer radiographer working in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire has been instructed to work under supervision following concerns regarding her ability to carry out basic patient examinations. Mrs Jane Onoh was volunteering in Fraserburgh Hospital’s community radiology department to help her secure a full-time job in the UK. However, staff members brought concerns with her fitness to practise to the HCPC after seeing her fail to perform basic examinations. Following a tribunal service hearing, the HCPTS determined that Mrs Onoh’s fitness to practise was impaired, however, Mrs Onoh’s commitment to further training ensured that she was not struck off. Instead, she was instructed to undertake three months of paid or voluntary work under the supervision of an experienced radiographer.

Our take

We can take significant positives from Mrs Onoh’s story, not least the way that the HCPTS responded to her engagement with their process and her willingness to continue learning. It appears that Mrs Onoh’s genuine desire to improve her skills turned what could have been a disastrous investigation into an opportunity for her to train to the point where she could be considered for a full-time role in the UK. The outcome of this case illustrates how important it is for medical professionals to engage with fitness to practise processes constructively. Practitioners should not assume that an investigation being opened against them will mark the end of their career.

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 January’s stories:

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