Subscription slip-ups

Ensure essential subscriptions are paid to avoid inadvertently being erased from the register.

THE last thing any healthcare professional needs on a hectic day at work is the shock discovery that their regulatory body’s registration has lapsed and they must immediately stop seeing patients.

Summer is a busy time for subscription renewals to organisations such as the General Medical Council, General Dental Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Without these subscriptions in place, healthcare professionals are not legally allowed to practise medicine or dentistry. This means not only avoiding patient consultation, but also tasks such as checking test results and signing prescriptions.

Our advisers have received calls in the past few weeks from concerned practices whose nursing staff have unwittingly “dropped off” the NMC register, causing considerable disruption to patient care.

Similarly, we regularly take calls from doctors and dentists who have accidentally allowed their GMC or GDC registration to lapse. Problems can also occur if a practitioner’s subscription to their medical or dental defence organisation is not renewed.

Often a simple change in personal information, such as home address or direct debit details, is to blame.

One recent call to the MDDUS advice line came from a manager who discovered her practice nurse had unwittingly let his NMC registration lapse, leaving him temporarily unable to carry out nursing duties. The error had occurred after the nurse moved house and also changed banks. He was unaware there had been a problem with his most recent NMC annual fee payment, meaning he was not on the regulator’s register. He faced being unable to treat patients, or indeed undertake any nursing duties, until the NMC had processed his application to re-register.

The GDC has recently sent out a reminder to dental care professionals that they must pay their annual retention fee (ARF) by July 31. It is always wise to ensure bank details are up-to-date rather than risk being erased from the register.

Healthcare professionals who discover their subscriptions have lapsed must stop all clinical work immediately and seek advice from MDDUS. Applying to be reinstated onto the register can be a time-consuming, stressful process with the potential for loss of earnings and even disciplinary action. And there is often a fee to pay to have your name restored.

Practices are advised to have a system in place to ensure staff subscriptions with bodies such as the GMC, GDC, NMC and defence organisations such as MDDUS are kept up-to-date. The GMC and GDC websites both provide secure web portals where registrants can manage their registrations, pay fees and update personal information.

ACTION Ensure contact details are up-to-date and that annual retention fees are paid on time to avoid inadvertent erasure.