November’s medical news – covert surveillance & more funding for GPs

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

GPhC cleared to carry out ‘covert surveillance’

Source: The Pharmaceutical Journal (19/11/2018)

The GPhC has been seeking legal authority to carry out covert surveillance on certain pharmacists who are under investigation since 2013. In August 2018, they were finally granted permission according to The Investigatory Powers (Codes of Practice and Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2018. The regulator is permitted to use covert surveillance technology on investigation ‘targets’, but may not use undercover human informants. In a statement, the GPhC said that they had not yet exercised their new powers.

Our take

The GPhC’s new powers may pave the way for all medical regulators to employ similar techniques in their investigations, something that all medical professionals will need to be aware of should they come under regulatory scrutiny. It is likely that surveillance data will be used as evidence in fitness to practise hearings, meaning that subjects of these investigations will need to be especially careful in what they do once they are aware of allegations against them.

When should you report a colleague to the NMC?

Source: Nursing in Practice (12/11/2018)

This article was written by Medic Assistance Scheme’s Marie Dancer to discuss one of the more difficult aspects of a nurse’s job: the possibility of reporting a colleague to the NMC. Marie writes about the importance of pursuing a local resolution if at all possible and only going straight to the NMC in cases where the public or patients are at significant risk. Marie also discusses the kinds of issues that the NMC will want to investigate and the responsibilities that nurses have to report any concerns that they have about patient safety.

Our take

The NMC tends to prefer local solutions to fitness to practise issues. The first step they will take in most investigations is to learn what actions or investigations an employer has already taken. For this reason, you should bring the majority of concerns to your employer before going to the NMC. If the NMC does proceed with an investigation it is likely that you will need to provide a witness statement. You may also need to attend a hearing in person, depending on how the investigation goes. With this in mind, it is important that you can substantiate the claims that you are making and show that you think that patients or the public are genuinely at risk.

Will more funding reduce strain on England’s GPs?

Source: Pulse (26/11/2018)

The government has recently announced increased funding for the NHS and, specifically, general practice. Theresa May has committed to giving the NHS an additional £20.5bn a year by 2023, with £3.5bn a year going towards primary and community care. In her analysis piece, Nicola Merrifield asks whether or not this funding will actually solve the problems with general practice. Although more funding is necessary, plans to increase the number of GPs in England have all but disappeared. Some critics also argue that the funding is simply going towards add-ons to what GPs already do, rather than improving the lifelong doctor-patient relationships that general practices are so well suited for.

Our take

The strain on doctors’ time and energy has been felt around the country for several years up to this point. While a commitment to more NHS and GP funding is certainly welcome, the plans that have been revealed thus far cannot be considered a silver bullet to solve all of the existing problems. A look in the article’s comments will quickly show that many GPs are not satisfied with the plans. As far as fitness to practise is concerned, risks to patient and public safety will always remain as long as GPs are overworked and general practices are understaffed.

How to deal with difficult patients

Source: (28/11/2018)

This article from experienced dental writer Kate Scheer aims to give dentist tips for dealing with difficult patients. Her main tips centre on a commitment to show all patients that you’re engaged and listening and the need to stay calm in all interactions, not letting anger or frustration come through. Scheer acknowledged how tricky it can be to deal with patients like this, but her advice is sound and an important reminder for all dentists in that situation.

Our take

We’ve picked out this story because it’s a helpful reminder not to let difficult patients cause larger problems for you as a medical professional. Regardless of the circumstances, you never want to be placed in a situation where your fitness to practise could be seen as compromised, leading to larger consequences for your reputation and career. By remaining professional and dealing with all patients respectfully, you can improve business for your practice and reduce the risk of finding yourself in a more serious situation.

Fraudulent New Zealand psychiatrist triggers ‘urgent’ GMC checks

Source: BBC News (19/11/2018)

The GMC was shaken into action this month by the revelation that New Zealand ‘psychiatrist’ Zholia Alemi was able to practise medicine in the UK for 22 years, despite having no relevant qualifications. Alemi falsely claimed to have a degree from Auckland University when she came to the UK in 1995. In reality, she had dropped out of medical school after a year. All this was uncovered after she was investigated for fraud, having attempted to change a patient’s will so that she would receive the £1.3 million estate. In response to these events, the GMC is now ‘urgently’ checking the qualifications of around 3,000 overseas doctors who came to the UK and registered using the same process as Alemi. Although they say that the risk of any other infringements is small, they are determined not to be caught out again.

Our take

Alemi’s case highlights the need for a robust registration process for all medical professionals coming into the UK. The regulators would not want to allow a repeat of Alemi’s case, though it needs to be possible for suitably qualified professionals to work here. It is important that all prospective registrants are fully aware of the requirements for registering with any of the UK’s regulators, as mistakes in your application could remove any chance of working as a medical professional in this country.

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 November’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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