MDU calls for compassionate regulation of healthcare workers

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is calling on professional regulators to ensure fitness to practise processes deal with doctors and other healthcare professionals in a compassionate and proportionate way, taking account of the realities of their working lives.

While chairing the Westminster Health Forum event today on Next steps for professional healthcare regulation in the UK, Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU director of medical services, explained that it is important to learn lessons from the flexible way in which regulators like the GMC responded to the challenges of the pandemic to avoid unnecessary fitness to practise investigations.

Speaking after the event, which was attended by parliamentarians and representatives of the GMC and Professional Standards Authority, Dr Fryar explained:

“The pandemic shows we need healthcare regulation to be agile: we need it to be responsive and proportionate, we need it to be able to take swift action to dismiss complaints that are simply not a fitness to practise issue. That’s why it’s so important the government publishes legislation to give regulators like the GMC the powers it needs to be more flexible.

“While we await the legal changes needed to reform regulation, we need to ensure GMC standards remain compatible with the realities of doctors’ daily working lives, supporting colleagues to get on with the job of safely caring for patients.

“That means stopping investigations becoming unnecessarily prolonged and better triage arrangements at the start of the process so matters not relevant to the GMC can be more easily reassigned.

“For our part, we ensure members involved in GMC hearings receive a robust defence. Our figures for those doctors supported at hearings speak for themselves and demonstrate the value of first-rate legal representation. I urge all doctors to ensure they join a medical defence organisation.”

Between 2016 and 2020, MDU solicitors representing members achieved no finding of impairment in 42% of cases compared to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service average of 21.5%.