During these unprecedented times, we know that our members are focusing on looking after patients. At the MDU, we are on hand to support you and answer any medico-legal questions you may have and we will make every effort to ensure we continue to provide a high level of service.
We understand that you may be unsure about the developing situation and below is some guidance on issues that may rise during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Members working outside their usual field of practice
The GMC have acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak will mean that doctors are required to work outside their normal field of practice.
At time of writing, the GMC’s coronavirus guidance says when deciding the safest and best course of action, you should consider:
- what is within your knowledge and skills
- the options for support from other members of the healthcare team
- what will be best for the individual patient given available options
- the protection and needs of all patients that you have responsibility for
- minimising the risk of transmission and protecting your own health
Difficult yet rapid decisions may need to be made regarding the best course of action at any given time and the GMC have also acknowledged that concerns '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'.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, provision of medical services to NHS patients will be indemnified by the NHS throughout the UK. If your clinical duties have changed as a result of the need to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak you do not need to inform the MDU.
You also don’t need to contact the MDU if you have been asked to change the way you do your existing work for example switching from face-to-face to remote consultations. However, please let the MDU know if you plan to take on additional work, including telehealth work, you can email email@example.com.
It is likely that many doctors will be working outside their main area of practice in the coming weeks and months. If you consider that you have been asked to do something inappropriate even in the current circumstances then you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0800 716 376 for advice on how best to proceed.
MDU members can find more advice and information about the COVID-19 outbreak at www.themdu.com/coronavirus
This article is funded by the MDU for GP Connect
Indemnity for retired members
Throughout the UK retired doctors who will be providing medical services for the NHS during the COVID-19 outbreak will be indemnified by the NHS. However, retired members may need MDU membership for access to the additional medico-legal benefits such as help with complaints or adverse incidents. Doctors who are permanently retired can reactivate their MDU membership for access to medico-legal advice and assistance for an initial three month period at no additional cost.
Members returning to work will need to be registered with the GMC. The GMC is writing to doctors about this but their guidance confirms that it can grant temporary registration to certain doctors to supplement numbers and provide cover in an emergency. If this happens, the first group to be registered would be fully qualified and experienced doctors of good standing, who have recently relinquished their registration or license to practice.
The GMC says: 'Doctors in this group would automatically be granted temporary registration for the duration of the emergency, they wouldn't be charged to re-join the medical register and they wouldn't need to revalidate during their temporary registration.'
Contact the MDU if you know you are returning to work. Doctors who are permanently retired can reactivate their MDU membership for access to medico-legal advice and assistance for an initial three month period at no additional cost.
Providing expert medico-legal advice and support
One of the most important things we can do during the COVID-19 outbreak is to follow the government’s advice on social distancing: staying at home helps to protect our colleagues providing frontline NHS care. The MDU acted within a matter of days to facilitate working from home from its staff. We are fortunate in that our staff can work effectively from home while maintaining our service standards and some, including our medico-legal advisers, have been doing so for many years.
Our expert medico-legal advisers are available from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (and can be contacted around the clock for urgent enquiries) to answer any medico-legal queries about dealing with the ongoing coronavirus situation or to offer support to members in professional difficulty. They can be contacted on 0800 716 646 alternatively members can also keep up-to-date with the latest information on COVID-19 at www.themdu.com/coronavirus.