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One of the issues which has become more prevalent, is the need for reform of the medico-legal system. A paper published by an interdisciplinary team in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine focussed on some key points, including the call by some for immunity from civil and criminal claims and regulatory proceedings arising from treatment during COVID-19 and the potential for BAME doctors to be “double hit” by both the now well-documented disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on their personal medical health, and the potentially increased medico-legal consequences of working on the frontline. As a Regulatory lawyer who specialises in assisting doctors and the head of Kingsley Napley’s BAME and Allies Network, these topics are of particular interest and relevance to me.
Some heavily criticized the General Medical Council (“GMC”) following the Bawa-Garba case, including concern about the potential for discrimination based on the doctor’s race, ethnicity and cultural background. To its credit, the regulator commissioned a study which prompted the Fair to Refer report. Some of the report’s key findings were:
It is clear that many doctors are concerned about the prospect of a referral and resultant fitness to practise proceedings as a result of matters occurring during this COVID-19 period. So what needs to be considered to allay these fears?
Having worked in this field for some time, I am all too aware that facing a fitness to practise hearing is extremely stressful for doctors. The addition of pressure during the pandemic cannot be understated. There must be more focus on collaborative working, inclusive leadership and working environments along with a concerted effort by the regulator to work with doctors to avoid issues arising, rather than dealing with the problem once it has arisen.
Shannett is a Partner in the Regulatory Team providing regulatory advice predominantly in the health and social care sector. She is also a member of the private prosecutions team providing advice to individuals, business and charities in respect of prosecutions were traditional agencies are unwilling or unable to act.
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