A CROSS-PARTY group of MPs has joined forces to urge Government ministers to commission an independent advisory report into how patient complaints and claims against doctors will be dealt with fairly after COVID-19.
Dr Philippa Whitford, the SNP MP for Central Ayrshire, has led efforts – supported by MPs from five political parties – to support a call made by MDDUS for an independent expert committee to make recommendations on this issue.
She said now is the time for ministers to act to commission clear and independent recommendations on how to achieve a fair balance between protecting patients’ rights and fully reflecting the pandemic conditions doctors were working in.
In an open letter to Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC, Dr Whitford said independent guidance is needed on:
- The claims, complaints and regulatory issues likely to be raised by COVID-19, both directly and indirectly.
- How these can be tackled fairly, taking into account the exceptional circumstances in which clinical professionals have been working?
- What changes to normal processes may be necessary to minimise the stress and uncertainty on clinicians of investigations into decisions they made during COVID-19?
Dr Whitford, who is a member of MDDUS, said: "At the moment everyone is aware of the stress and challenge faced by NHS staff, but that memory will fade.
"It is important that the exceptional circumstances of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic are not forgotten when using hindsight to judge medical decisions or actions.
"An advisory committee could lay out specific guidance to achieve a fair balance between protecting patients’ rights and taking into account the situation in which doctors were having to work.
"While the advanced planning for a pandemic was rather limited, we owe it to all our frontline clinicians – especially those who have had to make difficult decisions about patient treatment – to plan well for its aftermath."
Chris Kenny, CEO of MDDUS, added: "Supporting and defending the professional interests of our 50,000 doctor and dentist members across the UK is at the heart of what MDDUS does, and I believe that this can be done in a way that also protects patients’ rights.
"I have already written to the UK’s senior law officers urging them to direct courts to take into account the unique circumstances of COVID-19 during any related criminal claim against healthcare professionals.
"I am very encouraged that MPs support the principle of an independent, expert advisory committee. I look to ministers to take forward this as a matter of urgency as they plan for the aftermath of COVID-19."