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November’s Medical Law News

Former British Cycling medic’s lawyer fights against the GMC, social workers change from HCPC to Social Work England, and the GDC rules on teeth whitening

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.

Former British Cycling medic’s lawyer fights against the GMC

Source: BBC News (25/11/2019)

Following 22 charges from the GMC against Dr. Richard Freeman, former medic for British Cycling and Team Sky, his lawyer has informed the regulatory board that they will claim insufficient evidence against the remaining four charges. After admitting to 18 of the 22 charges against his fitness to practise, Freeman denies the accusation that he ordered testosterone to help the performance of athletes. 

The GMC remains firm on their case, in circumstances where the credibility of their witnesses is being questioned. Freeman claims he ordered Testogel for former performance director Shane Sutton, a claim fiercely denied by Sutton. Just one witness remains for the GMC, then the tribunal will rule on the evidence by Sutton and the credibility of claims by Freeman.

Our take

It is reassuring to see the GMC taking fitness to practise investigations seriously, particularly in high profile cases such as this. Dr. Freeman’s case demonstrates the delicacy of dealing with investigations where the process can be prolonged and damaging, as witnesses are removed or their credibility questioned.

Medical professionals need to be aware of the consequences of a fitness to practise investigation and the professional implications it can have. However, the outcome of an investigation is not set in stone and, with the right legal team, professionals can come out of the process with justice and minimal damage to their reputation.

Social workers change from the HCPC to Social Work England

Source: Community Care (25/11/2019) and (27/11/2019)

As of December 2nd, Social Work England will take over from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in regulating England’s 100,000 social workers. They will become responsible for registering all social workers, regulatory matters and fitness to practise concerns. The transfer will occur automatically followed by an email to all social workers with an update from 2nd December, where they can set up a new online account and change their login details. 

Social Work England will take over any fitness to practise cases live at the time of transfer, with the HCPC stating they are “already in the process of handing over cases”. Social Work England claimed there will be “an emphasis on reducing the need for investigations”, where a more expansive initial process takes place to assess the needs for an investigation. Assessments of whether the social worker has taken remedial action, the availability of sufficient evidence, and the seriousness of the case will all be accounted for before an investigation is recommended under the new regulator.

Our take

This latest announcement is a significant step forward for social workers. An opportunity for faster investigations and case dealings is reassuring, as well as the introduction of case examiners with the ability to resolve cases without a hearing. This will significantly reduce the stress caused during investigations, a change which is welcomed by all.

Social workers should, however, avoid becoming complacent with investigatory matters. Whilst the number of cases taken to an investigation is set to fall, this is purely on the premise that workers take remedial action and their incident was not overly serious. Social workers must take active steps to show remorse during their case if they wish to avoid a serious investigation. If you are concerned about these changes or are in the middle of an investigation, please feel free to contact our team.

The GDC rules that teeth whitening is for registered dental professionals only

Source: Derbyshire Live (25/11/2019)

The GDC confirmed their position this month that tooth whitening is strictly a practice of dentistry. The comment came after Derbyshire resident Colin Vernall was caught conducting illegal teeth whitening for the second time. Vernall was fined £7,000 in 2019 after complaints to Trading Standards but had continued to offer the service to locals.

The regulator stated that tooth whitening is “the practice of dentistry” which “can only safely and legally be offered by registered dental professionals”. But offenders like Vernall continue to offer teeth whitening services, despite non-GDC registered dental practices being illegal. The GDC states it will “investigate all allegations of illegal practice and potentially prosecute them in the criminal courts”.

Our take

The improper practice of teeth whitening has been an interesting and much-discussed development over recent years. Despite Vernall facing a fine for illegal conduct, he continued to offer the service to customers and claimed it was a procedure not governed by the GDC.

For medical practitioners, it is important to stay alert and aware of any unfit practices taking place within the field. Many members of the public are unaware of which techniques are regulated, and they may have previously undergone a procedure unsupported by the GDC. It is crucial to stay proactive in reporting any instances which become apparent, to ensure the practice stays as safe as possible for clients.

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 November’s stories:

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