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Professional Regulation

GMC appointed as regulator for physician associates and anaesthesia associates

Physician associates and anaesthesia associates work alongside doctors to assist in the management of patients.

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The General Medical Council has been appointed as the regulator for physician associates and anaesthesia associates.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has today appointed the General Medical Council (GMC) as the official regulator for physician associates and anaesthesia associates.

Physician associates and anaesthesia associates work alongside doctors in hospitals and in GP surgeries to assist in the diagnosis and management of patients.

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They are trained to perform a number of roles including; taking medical histories, performing examinations, analysing test results, and diagnosing illnesses under the direct supervision of a doctor.

The law does not currently require physician associates or anaesthesia associates to be professionally registered in order to practice.

Excellence must be maintained.

Charlie Massey, General Medical Council Chief Executive, said:We are pleased the four UK governments have made a decision about who should take this important work forward. We look forward to supporting physician associates and anaesthesia associates to maximise their contribution to the workforce, while ensuring high standards are maintained to meet the needs of patients.

“We are now working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care to determine timescales and costs. We have been clear that costs should not be borne by doctors.

“In accepting responsibility for regulating these professions, we will also make sure that excellence is maintained in education for both doctors and medical associate professionals, so that all trainees receive the time and support they need to learn and provide safe care’.

Adversely impacting doctors.

Responding to the announcement, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that the regulator should ensure the move does not adversely impact doctors.

Dr Chaand Napgaul, BMA council chair, said: “The BMA has long called for statutory regulation in protecting patients and we support the decision to regulate physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs). However, we are fundamentally opposed to the position that the GMC (General Medical Council) is the right organisation to be their regulator,”

“Given the significant scope of work the GMC currently undertakes in overseeing doctors’ medical education and training, setting professional standards, and acting on concerns, it is vital it should not be diverted from its efforts in this regard.”

“In view of today’s announcement however, easily accessible guidance for patients, so that they can understand the different staff roles within the NHS, must now urgently be prepared to ensure they are aware which health care professional is providing their care.

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Professional Regulation

NMC apologises after misleading Morecambe Bay investigators

Up to 19 babies and mothers died between 2004 and 2012 as a result of mistakes by staff.

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The regulator has apologised over how it handled a Fitness to Practice investigation.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has apologised over how it handled a Fitness to Practice (FtP) investigation following the tragic death of newborn Joshua Titcombe at Morecambe Bay.

The independent review by Verita was commissioned by the NMC after the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) raised concerns over how the regulator handled the fitness to practice investigation.

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The report was initially commissioned by Jeremy Hunt, the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, after up to 19 babies and mothers died at the hospital between 2004 and 2012 as a result of mistakes by the staff of its maternity unit.

Jackie Smith, the former Chief Executive and Registrar of the NMC, resigned on the eve of the PSA report.

‘Incorrect and misleading statements’.

Investigators highlighted concerns over a chronology that was submitted as evidence by Joshua’s parents. They commented that they regulator failed to include the chronology in the evidence gathering process and also failed to “consider and understand the significance of this evidence and its relevance to a central issue in the case.”

The NMC then went on to make “incorrect and misleading statements” to Joshua’s parents, the PSA and the Secretary of State for Health about how it handled and reviewed the chronology.

Verita also commented that the regulator failed to treated witnesses “with the respect and sensitivity they deserved”.

Investigator on to recommend that the “NMC should make it a priority to ensure that it treats families and patients with respect and is honest and open with them” and “ensure that Panel Chairs are fully briefed about the importance of showing respect to bereaved relatives, perhaps by using this example as a case study.”

The total cost of Verita’s report was £151,742.22.

‘I am very sorry’.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, the current NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said: “Throughout these fitness to practise cases the way we treated Mr Titcombe and his family was unacceptable. Our actions made an awful situation much worse and I am very sorry for that. I am also very sorry that our communications with Mr Titcombe, the PSA and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care contained incorrect and misleading information about our handling of this evidence.”

“This investigation highlights a number of failings at the NMC at that time. We did not properly understand the significance of this important piece of evidence, in particular to Mr Titcombe and his family, and we did not put it before the panel when we should have done. This reflected a culture at the NMC at that time that prioritised process over people.”

“Since the events at Morecambe Bay we have made significant changes, including much improved record keeping, the introduction of a new public support service, and additional training for panel members to help them better understand the needs of witnesses.

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Professional Regulation

NMC launches an emotional support helpline for staff involved in fitness to practise cases

The helpline is part of the NMC’s bid to become a “person-centred” regulator.

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The helpline will provide emotional and practical support for staff involved in the fitness to practise processes.

Nurses, midwives and nursing associates involved in fitness to practise can now benefit from a new, free and confidential support service.

The NMC’s Careline, operated by an independent provider, will provide emotional and practical support is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for nurses and midwives across the UK, and nursing associates in England, who are involved in the fitness to practise processes.

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Staff can contact the service via phone, live chat or email, to discuss concerns with specially trained counsellors who are experienced in handling sensitive topics.

Launching less than a year since the NMC set up its support service for members of the public who raise concerns when things go wrong with their nursing or midwifery care, the 12-month CareLine pilot launched on World Mental Health day.

Becoming a ‘person-centred’ regulator.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said: “Following the launch last year of our Public Support Service for people affected by poor nursing or midwifery care, I’m really pleased we’re now able to offer this new pilot resource for professionals.

“The Careline marks another important step forward in truly humanising how we operate and becoming the person-centred professional regulator that the NMC is determined to be with everyone we interact with.

“Less than one per cent of around 700,000 professionals on our register are engaged in our fitness to practise procedures, but we know that it can have a profound effect on those that are. The impact on someone’s physical and mental wellbeing as a result of being under such scrutiny mustn’t go unrecognised.

“I hope the Careline, and our forthcoming remediation guidance, further encourages support and learning when things do go wrong in nursing and midwifery care. Together, let’s help ensure that all those involved in our processes are treated with kindness and respect.”

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