New GMC guidance to its staff details how to take the context created by Covid-19 into account when considering complaints about doctors.
It takes account of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, including additional pressures on resources and ways of working outside of normal routines.
Concerns about doctors will be considered in the context of the pandemic, such as concerns about clinical treatment where guidelines were unclear, or a doctor working outside their usual area of practice with limited or no support or guidance to do so safely.
There would also need to be no risk to future patients, the GMC said.
The guidance also advises GMC staff who look into possible fitness-to-practise cases to reflect on specific issues arising due to the pandemic such as the disproportionate impact of disease and mortality rates on individuals from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and access to and availability of adequate PPE.
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘The unpredictable circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic have forced doctors of all levels to change their practice and work more flexibly.
‘Our new guidance considers the environment, created by the pandemic, in which doctors were working, along with any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.
‘During this challenging time, doctors of course still have a duty to provide the best and safest care they can in the circumstances. When we consider concerns raised about doctors, we always review the circumstances and context of the case to decide whether they pose a future risk to patients and whether their fitness to practise is impaired.’
Each complaint will be assessed on a case-by-case basis as to whether the incident poses a risk to patients or to public confidence.
The new guidance will be used by decision-makers alongside updated guidance on provisional inquiries, the GMC’s Good Medical Practice and other processes that form the bases for looking into fitness-to-practise concerns.