The statement, which was co-signed by the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers, the GMC and the Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, acknowledges the challenges that doctors are facing in having to work outside of their usual area of practice, often in hugely unfamiliar circumstances, for the benefit of patients and the nation as a whole. In acknowledging this challenge, the statement also reaffirms the standards that doctors are held to.
Dr Matthew Lee, professional services director at the MDU, said:
"The approach that the GMC is taking is welcome. The MDU has worked closely with the regulator to ensure that it adopts a proportionate approach to regulation during the pandemic. It is vital the GMC only opens full investigations where absolutely necessary.
"Today’s joint statement, alongside the work that the GMC has already undertaken, serves to highlight the stark contrast between the agility of the regulatory system when compared to the claims process for a clinical negligence claim.
"The GMC has been able to adapt its processes to take into account the unprecedented circumstances in which the medical profession finds itself. Unless the government takes legislative action, the courts and the entire litigation process associated with a clinical negligence claim will not be able to replicate this approach. Without such flexibility, doctors could, in years to come, find their actions during this crisis being judged against unrealistic standards of care that simply could not have been offered with available resources stretched to their limits.
"The litigation process, which can last for several years, can cause huge anxiety and distress for the doctor involved. We fear that without intervention from the government now, we could see a significant number of claims brought against the NHS for incidents associated with its response to the pandemic. Not only would such claims have a potentially damaging effect on the healthcare professionals involved, but they most certainly would be a further blow to NHS finances – which are already being hit by the unsustainable growth in the cost of clinical negligence claims.
"The MDU is urging the government to take urgent steps to ensure that NHS healthcare professionals are exempt from COVID-19 related litigation."
This page was correct at publication on 11/11/2020. 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.