Covid-19: The Coronavirus Act 2020 and Emergency Powers for Doctors and Nurses and the registration of overseas doctors

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Covid-19: The Coronavirus Act 2020 and Emergency Powers for Doctors and Nurses and the registration of overseas doctors

As former clients of ours will tell you, the registration process for International Medical Graduates with the General Medical Council (“GMC”) can take some time and can, frustratingly result in registration being refused and the client then having to go through the GMC’s registration appeals process.

At the time of writing this, we are all working from home as a result of the Covid-19 virus. But there are those vital key workers who are on the front line of this pandemic, working as healthcare professionals in the NHS, day and night to try to combat the virus and to help the most unwell of patients. Sadly, we do not appear to have sufficient numbers of healthcare professionals to assist. So what is being done about this?

What are the emergency powers for doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals under the Coronavirus Act 2020?

Schedules 1, 2,3 and 5 gives emergency powers to the regulators (and Health Board in the case of GPs) to allow nurses and midwives, healthcare professionals who would be expected to register with the HCPC, GPs wishing to be included on a Medical Performers List and social workers, to register where an emergency situation involving loss of human life or human illness arises.

Overall, providing that any such healthcare professional is a fit and proper person for the role and is suitably experienced, the emergency provisions allow them to be registered in order to permit them to work in their respective professions when an emergency situation arises as defined above.

What happens when the Coronavirus epidemic ends?

Any healthcare professionals seeking to rely upon this new legislation needs to be aware that any permitted emergency registration is not permanent and can be revoked if the emergency situation ceases to exist or if the professional’s fitness to practise may be impaired.

Is there any appeal process?

There is also no power of appeal should any such emergency registration be refused or if any emergency registration is revoked.

Does the Coronavirus Act allow doctors to perform primary medical services?

In short the answer is yes, in relation to GPs, the Coronavirus Act 2020 also provides for temporary registration of doctors with regards to emergency situations allowing them to perform primary medical services even if they are not yet on the Medical Performers List, provided that any such application has not been refused or deferred.

Can Local Health Boards refuse inclusion onto the Medical Performers List?

Yes, Local Health Boards can refuse an application for inclusion if an allegation of misconduct is received or if an allegation relating to the person’s involvement in a matter comes to light where that person would be under a duty to disclose the allegation; allegations where if that person were already included in a Performers’ List, they would be suspended to protect the public while the Health Board decided whether or not to remove their name from the Performer’s List.

Local Health Boards can defer their determination as to whether or not a person should be allowed emergency inclusion on a Performer’s List if that person has declared any matter such as that described above and the Health Board is satisfied to complete its consideration of the person’s application before the person is permitted to perform primary medical services.

How long does it take for an application for inclusion?

Medical Practitioners must be notified within 7 days of the decision of the Health Board to include their name on the Performer’s List

What if an application for inclusion to the Performers List is refused?

If any such application for inclusion onto the Performers’ List is refused, the person may not re-apply for inclusion in any Performers List and there is no right of appeal against a refusal decision.

Are the Coronavirus Emergency Measures enough to tackle the virus and save lives?

Only time will tell, if the new measures are enough as we are still in the early days as far as the spread of this virus is concerned and do not know how great the impact of the social distancing measures will be. It was reported today that so far 11,700 retired NHS doctors and health professionals have already agreed to return to the NHS following a government appeal. This clearly is a positive step, but what else could be done.

We are aware of doctors who are qualified, who have the requisite skill and knowledge but are unable to provide valuable services to the public in the UK because they are only registered to practise in other countries and do not hold a GMC registration number. Some of these doctors having travelled to the UK have been reduced to taking jobs working in takeaway restaurants whilst they complete conversion examinations and await registration.

Yesterday the Guardian reported on this issue and highlighted the criticism of one doctor who stated that parts of the conversion exams related to “the nuances of the English language rather than on medical expertise.

This issues has been debated in Parliament recently in the light of Covid-19 and the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has indicated that we ought to be trying to speed up the process of registration with the GMC for those doctors who qualified overseas, “to see whether we can find a way through for the period of this crisis”.

How can we help?

Seeking registration under the new legislation?

If you are a healthcare professional seeking registration under the new emergency legislation, it is important that any such application is correctly submitted first time round as there is no right of appeal if registration is refused. We can help you to ensure that the correct documentation is submitted first time round to give you the best chance of registration with your respective regulator/Health Board.

Seeking registration as an international medical graduate?

If you are a doctor from overseas and want to seek registration as an international medical graduate seeking registration with the GMC, please do give one of our lawyers a call on 0161 827 9500. We can ensure that you submit the correct documents to the GMC whatever stage you are at with the registration process and we can advise those who have been refused registration on the prospects of success of a registration appeal.

Burton Copeland remain open and able to advise and assist during the Covid-19 outbreak and our lawyers are happy to help so please contact us

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