2021 has been another significant year for fitness to practise. From the continued impact of Covid19, racial bias in fitness to practise, fitness to practise legislative reform and a number of important court cases, this is an overview of fitness to practise in 2021.
A year on, the impact of Covid-19 is being felt across health care, perhaps more so than ever in light of the Omicron variant.
In light of this, Covid continues to play an important role in the fitness to practise landscape for health and care professionals. However, the Covid pandemic has also brought to the fore questions about the right of free speech where, particularly doctors, has expressed personal opinions about Covid and the Government’s approach to it. See, for example, the case in which the High Court commented on when can the GMC interfere with Human Rights when considering fitness to practise and a doctor with “conscientious objection” to Covid suspended.
Context continues to be key in fitness to practise. Regulators have sought, on a number of occasions, to reassure health and care professionals that they will consider the impact and pressures of Covid-19 in any fitness to practise issues arising.
Health and care professionals have also been subject to mandatory vaccine requirements, however it was confirmed that this was not a fitness to practise issue for regulators, rather a matter for employers.
Finally, it would appear that remote fitness to practise hearings are now a permanent feature. Most regulators have either consulted or changed their rules to incorporate remote hearing in certain circumstances.
Racial Bias & Discrimination
2021 saw healthcare regulators continue to struggle with racial bias in the own fitness to practise processes and procedures. Of note:
- The case of nurse Melanie Hayes that attracted wide public interest. From the NMC’s mishandling of this case, the NMC set out a number of changes to its fitness to practise processes and procedures.
- The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) was trialling redacted fitness to practise reports to guard against racial bias. It recently published its GPhC Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy, embedding this and other measures to address its own issues of racial bias.
- The well-publicised case of Consultant Urologist Mr Omar Karim, who won an employment tribunal that concluded the GMC discriminated against him on the grounds of his race. This is the first time that a race discrimination claim has succeeded in the Employment Tribunal against the GMC.
Fitness to Practise Reform
In 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care launched an important consultation to overhaul fitness to practise in the UK. The White Paper set out a wide-ranging set of proposals
In the courts
2021 has proven to be another significant year in the courts with a number of important decisions. An overview of the most significant of these are:
- Confirmation when can the GMC interfere with Human Rights when considering fitness to practise – In a recent High Court appeal case, the Court clarified the right approach that must be adopted by the GMC when it interferes with a doctor’s Human Rights.
- Professional Standards Authority for Health And Social Care v General Optical Council & Honey Rose
- Dental practice owners are vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of self-employed associate dentists – High Court – In the case of Hughes v Rattan, the High Court held that the Defendant, a dental practice owner, was vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of three self-employed associate dentists in respect of his dental treatment at his practice.
- Doctors practising abroad, GMC registration and fitness to practise – The case of Sastry v General Medical Council has raised important fitness to practise issues for GMC registered doctors who practise abroad.
- Sexual motivation and harassment, without physical contact – PSA v HCPC – In the case of PSA v HCPC & Leonard Ren-Yi Yong, the High Court was asked to rule on whether inappropriate comments by Mr Yong were sexually motived.
Best & Worst Performing Healthcare Regulators
How well does your regulator perform? According to the Professional Standards Authority, and based on their last review:
- General Medical Council met all 18 standards of good regulation
- General Osteopathic Council met all 18 standards of good regulation
- Nursing & Midwifery Council met 17 of the 18 standards of good regulation
- General Chiropractic Council met 17 of the 18 standards of good regulation
- General Optical Council met 16 of the 18 standards of good regulation
- General Dental Council 16 of the 18 standards of good regulation
- General Pharmaceutical Council 15 of the 18 standards of good regulation
- Social Work England met 15 of the 18 standards of good regulation
- Health and Care Professions Council met 13 of the 18 standards of good regulation
Kings View Success
2021 has been another successful year for Kings View. We are proud to have retained our excellent customer rating with many clients commenting on the fact that they felt valued, informed and listened to.
We are pleased to have achieved great outcomes for our clients this year including a number of successful restoration applications.
As a leading chambers specialising in healthcare law and regulation, our barristers give high quality specialist advice and have unrivalled experience in defending and representing health and care professionals including issues with registration, allegations made against you for poor professional competence, health issues and allegations of misconduct.
Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. Kings View Chambers accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken, or not taken, in relation to this article. You should seek the appropriate legal advice having regard to your own particular circumstances.