‘Context will count’ for nursing care given in a widespread coronavirus outbreak

NMC releases statement on how it will consider potential fitness to practise cases

Covid-19 coronavirus particles. The NMC says it will consider context for fitness to practise cases that relate to care given during a possible widespread coronavirus outbreak
Covid-19 coronavirus particles Picture: SPL

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will consider the ‘context’ of fitness to practise cases that may arise in relation to care given during a widespread coronavirus outbreak.

In a joint statement about how they will continue to regulate if the virus escalates, the NMC and other regulators of health and care professionals said: ‘In highly challenging circumstances, professionals may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for people using health and social care services.’

The statement said regulatory standards are designed ‘to be flexible’ and provide a decision-making framework in a wide range of situations.

Providing care in challenging circumstances

‘We recognise that the individuals on our registers may feel anxious about how context is taken into account when concerns are raised about their decisions and actions in very challenging circumstances,’ the statement said.

'Where a concern is raised about a registered professional, it will always be considered on the specific facts of the case, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working.’

It added that profession-specific guidance might be created.

Concern over increased pressure on NHS

As of 3 March, the number of confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus in the UK is 51.

The British Medical Association also warned that the impact of any escalation of the virus on an already strained NHS would be ‘grave’. 

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said tough decisions might need to be taken.

‘It is unavoidable that an outbreak, in the worst-case scenario, would lead to increased staffing and cost pressures on the NHS and tough decisions would need to be taken,’ she said.

She added that an outbreak would have a wider impact on NHS and care services, with staff who are parents affected if there are school closures.

Action plan suggests calling on retired NHS staff

The government has published its action plan outlining the steps it would take in a widespread outbreak, such as delaying non-urgent NHS procedures, and staff rostering changes, including ‘calling leavers and retirees back to duty’.

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