Assisting at a charity sports event

Sporting event

I have been asked to attend my son's school rugby tournament as the event doctor. What issues do I need to take into consideration?

Doctors are often asked to provide medical cover at amateur and charity sporting events. In smaller events with spectator numbers of less than 2000, this may involve providing medical care to players and the crowd. The types of medical problems which an event doctor may be faced with can range from acute traumatic injury of a participant, including spinal injury, to facial injuries or cardiac arrest.

Doctors should have appropriate qualifications, skills, experience, equipment and support to undertake such work. Paragraph 14 of the GMC's Good Medical Practice guidance (2013) states 'You must recognise and work within the limits of your competence'.

This guidance applies even if you are providing your services on a voluntary basis, such as at the school rugby tournament. You will need to ensure that your skills and experience are appropriate for the task. For example, you will need to be expert in areas such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, airway maintenance and spinal fracture immobilisation. You will also need to ensure you have the right equipment and support. If you are not sure what you may need, many sporting organisations publish guidelines on equipment levels and clinical protocols and you will need to make sure you comply with these where they are available. The school will probably have an event organiser who should be able to help you to ensure you have what you need.

You must recognise and work within the limits of your competence.

You are required to have indemnity for any claims arising from attendance at a sporting event. Paragraph 63 of Good Medical Practice (2013) states 'You must make sure you have adequate insurance or indemnity cover so that your patients will not be disadvantaged if they make a claim about the clinical care you have provided in the UK.'

Some professional sports organisations or organising bodies provide indemnity for doctors acting in a professional capacity, and you should check this before the event. If the school cannot provide you with indemnity, please contact us to check whether your current membership will indemnify you for this. This is equally important whether you are paid or planning to attend voluntarily.

If a medical problem should occur during the event, your ethical responsibilities, such as the need to obtain consent and to maintain confidentiality, remain the same as in any other aspect of your medical practice. Consent for examination or treatment can be written, verbal or implied and you have a duty to keep all information about patients confidential unless you have their consent to disclose that information.

It may be helpful to familiarise yourself with the local health services, in particular the ambulance service, in the event that a serious injury requiring hospital transfer occurs. You should also keep detailed notes of any incidents and the medical care you provide.

Acting as an event doctor is quite separate from Good Samaritan acts, where a doctor attends an event in a non-professional capacity and is called upon to provide medical care in an emergency. GMC guidance makes it clear you have an ethical duty to give what assistance you can in the circumstances. Good Medical Practice (2013) paragraph 26 states 'You must offer help if emergencies arise in clinical settings or in the community, taking account of your own safety, your competence, and the availability of other options for care. You must provide what assistance you can, working within your competence unless there is no reasonable alternative'.

If you just turned up at the rugby match and no doctor was there and one of the players was injured, you would be expected to treat the patient. As an MDU member you would have access to indemnity for Good Samaritan acts. Make sure you keep a note of the incident.

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This page was correct at publication on . Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.