THE impact of social distancing, staff shortages and working outside of normal practice should all be considered by GMC staff investigating complaints against doctors.
Specific new guidance from the regulator considers how to assess the risk to public protection posed by a doctor as a result of concerns about their practice during the pandemic.
Aimed at GMC "decision makers", it acknowledged that the pandemic has created "significant and unfamiliar challenges for healthcare staff, including doctors, in delivering safe and effective healthcare". It also highlighted the disproportionate effect the outbreak has had on those from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities where there has been a "disproportionate burden of disease and mortality carried by clinicians".
As with any case, the GMC said it would consider any allegation raised about a doctor’s fitness to practise during the pandemic in the context of the circumstances that existed at the time.
But it has advised its staff to take into account a number of specific factors, including:
- the availability of resources and the impact of social distancing
- the uncertainty around effective care and treatment of a novel disease
- the disproportionate impact on BME communities
- availability of PPE and its ability to hamper communication with patients
- staff shortages due to COVID-19 infection or self isolation
- clinicians having to work outside normal routine and practice, often in unfamiliar roles
- extreme fatigue/stress/trauma suffered by many health workers.
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: "During this challenging time, doctors of course still have a duty to provide the best and safest care they can in the circumstances.
"When we consider concerns raised about doctors, we always review the circumstances and context of the case to decide whether they pose a future risk to patients and whether their fitness to practise is impaired."
He added that each complaint will be assessed on a case-by-case basis as to whether the incident poses a risk to patients or to public confidence.
Read the guidance here