The Government has introduced legislation to recall retired healthcare professionals or those who have left their respective healthcare regulator’s registers in the last three years and are deemed fit to practise.
Although the recall will be temporary, the requirement to remain fit to practise continues to apply. In this article I will look at the advice from healthcare regulators on their fitness to practise requirements and sanctions for healthcare professionals on a Covid-19 temporary register.
General Medical Council (GMC)
The general advice from the GMC to doctors who have temporarily returned to practice is that the GMC’s “Ethical guidance for doctors” must be adhered to.
More specifically, the GMC recognise that the Covid-19 pandemic will present doctors on the temporary register with difficult decisions to make. The GMC has made it clear that doctors may need to “…depart from established procedures in order to care for … Where a concern is raised about a registered professional, it will always be considered on the specific facts of the case, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working. We would also take account of any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.”
It may also be that a doctor may need to work in unfamiliar circumstances or surroundings, or, more importantly, in clinical areas outside their usual practice. This will naturally cause concern and anxiety but, on the face of it at least, the GMC reiterated its position that it will consider the special circumstances faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC)
The NMC said that it would not register nurses, midwives or nursing associates who were removed from the permanent register either through our fitness to practise processes or who lapsed with outstanding fitness to practise concerns as fit, proper and suitably experienced.
If during the temporary registration a concern is raised to the NMC about the fitness to practise of a registered nurse, midwife or nursing associate, the NMC’s normal investigation and triage processes will be followed. It further confirmed that “the decision to remove someone from the temporary register rests with the NMC Registrar.”
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
The HCPC confirmed that “HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics, and Standards of proficiency, will only apply to individuals on the COVID-19 temporary register(s) if they chose to return to practice (and only as far as they relate to their scope of practice).”
Like other healthcare regulators, the HCPC recognise the special circumstances and the need to be flexible. The confirmed that it will not impose its standards of continuing professional development in relation to audit, but it does expect practitioners practising on the COVID-19 temporary register to “…ensure their skills, knowledge and experience are kept up to date.”
In terms of what the HCPC will do if a concern is raised about a registrant, it stated that if the concern meets their triage test, it will remove them from the COVID-19 temporary register(s) with immediate effect.
General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
Pharmacists reregistered temporarily will be required to meet the standards for pharmacy professionals and have the appropriate indemnity insurance.
The GPhC has confirmed the following in relation to what it would do if a fitness to practise concern was raised whilst a pharmacist was practising on the temporary register:
We will quickly assess the nature and extent of the risk to patient safety. This will be done by carrying out a swift and thorough review of the available evidence to understand the seriousness of the concern and if there is a real risk to patients.
We will assess whether the professional is able to carry out their role safely and effectively or whether continuing to allow temporary registration would undermine trust and confidence in the professions.
Once we have reviewed the evidence, we will ‘administratively remove’ a professional with temporary registration if the evidence suggests that removal:
- is necessary to protect the public
- is otherwise in the public interest
- is in the interests of the pharmacy professional
‘Administrative removal’ means that the registrar will immediately remove the person from the temporary register and they will no longer be able to practice as a pharmacy professional.
If we decide to not administratively remove them, the professional will remain in practice under existing supervision arrangements until the need for temporary professionals passes and they are removed with all the others.