December’s Medical Law News

GMC ends offer of private screening for staff after BMJ review finds no benefit, former British Cycling medic fails in bid to have charges thrown out, and the GPhC publishes guidance for pharmacist prescribers.

Each month, the team at Medic Assistance Scheme finds articles and stories from the past few weeks that will help medical practitioners to stay on top of fitness to practise trends in their profession. If you have concerns relating to anything you’ve read on our website, contact us today.

GMC ends offer of private screening for staff after BMJ review finds no benefit

Source: BMJ (10/12/2019)

The General Medical Council (GMC) has decided to end its offer of private health screening for employees. This service was previously provided free of charge as an employee perk to all staff, costing the GMC an average of £35k a year. Prior to this, many had campaigned for the private insurance and screening offering to be cancelled, including Margaret McCartney, GP and former columnist for The BMJ.

Due in part to calls for the service to be ended, the GMC enlisted the BMJ Technology Assessment Group to carry out an evidence-based review of its offering to staff. The report that emerged from this found “no evidence of additional benefit to the screening on offer beyond that which is already freely available on the NHS.” Staff will now have to rely on the NHS health screening service, which the review has found to be just as effective as the equivalent private offering.

Our take

Those concerned with the potential impact of their private health screening being cancelled should be reassured to see the evidence that the benefits of the service will still be provided through the equivalent NHS screening option.

That said, It is excellent to see the GMC adopting such a proactive approach to increasing the efficiency of its spending. With GMC membership fees having risen slightly earlier this year, many medical professionals will no doubt be satisfied with this move to redistribute the amount of spending by the regulatory body.

Former British Cycling medic fails in bid to have charges thrown out

Source: BBC (13/12/2019)

Dr. Richard Freeman, former medic for British Cycling and Team Sky, has failed in his bid to have the remaining four charges against him by the GMC thrown out. He had already admitted to 18 of the 22 charges against his fitness to practise, but last month his lawyer claimed that there was insufficient evidence against him for the final four charges relating to an order of testosterone to enhance the performance of athletes. Freeman stands accused of ordering 30 sachets of Testogel to British Cycling headquarters in 2011 with the intention of supplying them to athletes. 

Whilst he admits to ordering the drugs, he denies that the order was placed with a view to improving the performance of athletes – instead, Freeman claims that he had purchased them for Shane Sutton, former British Cycling performance director, who has denied this allegation.

Our take

This case highlights the importance of fitness to practise investigations in the eyes of the GMC. Whilst the investigation and tribunal process has already been drawn out, the regulatory body is still dedicated to extending the case until the relevant evidence becomes available, demonstrating its consistent commitment with regard to holding medical professionals to account.

As this high-profile case has shown, fitness to practise investigations can have serious consequences for the careers and personal reputations of those under examination. Medical professionals can protect themselves against this to an extent by enlisting the right legal team. However, it is important to ensure that a strong, evidence-based case is made when attempting to overturn any charges from the GMC.

GPhC publishes guidance for pharmacist prescribers

Source: The Pharmaceutical Journal (2/12/2019)

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has released its guidance for pharmacist prescribers. This document includes revisions to the earlier proposed guidance, with the regulatory body stating that it features “further examples of prescribing in different settings and strengthening the guidance in relation to online prescribing of high-risk medicines”. The guidance was updated in response to the earlier criticism that it was too focused on community pharmacy and is intended to support pharmacy practitioners with the appropriate provision of care and medicines in various settings.

The GPhC has cautioned that “not following this guidance, or not taking the appropriate steps to ensure safe prescribing, could result in the registration of the pharmacist prescriber being at risk”. Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, commented that the report comes at a time when we are seeing rapid growth in the number of pharmacist prescribers working across a variety of settings throughout Great Britain, with the number of registered prescribing pharmacists having doubled since 2016.

Our take

With unprecedented numbers of pharmacists now registered to prescribe medicines, it is vital that this new GPhC guidance is followed fastidiously. The regulatory body has already warned that failure to follow the guidelines could place pharmacists’ registrations in jeopardy, but it is likewise possible that any negligence in relation to this could result in legal issues for pharmacy practitioners.

If you prescribe care or medicines as part of your work, then you should take the time to go through the new guidelines very closely and ensure that you adhere to all of the recommendations in the future. Feel free to contact our team if you are worried or unsure about this guidance document in any way.

Related Services

The Medic Assistance Scheme’s lawyers can help medical professionals in many of the areas referred to in these news topics. See below for the services that relate to December’s stories:


Other articles you may be interest in


The significance of Interim orders in Fitness to Practise Investigations


Guide to NMC Investigations


GMC Hearings: What to expect at the MPTS & how to prepare

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