NHS consultant Dr Bryony Shah* requests our advice on dealing with a hospital bed shortage during an NHS crisis.
Dr Shah contacted Medical Protection after clinicians in her department were told by the Trust to review patients in the back of ambulances on hospital grounds, due to a shortage of inpatient beds.
Dr Shah was concerned that clinicians could not deliver optimum care within the confines of the back of an ambulance. She was concerned for patient safety and whether, ultimately, clinicians would be legally and professionally covered for attending to patients outside the department albeit on hospital grounds.
How Medical Protection helped
Dr Shah’s dedicated medicolegal consultant (MLC) identified the themes within Dr Shah’s query, the relevant GMC guidance and professional obligations that underpin the situation and advised Dr Shah on considerations to take into account. She discussed with her the duty of care and competency and, where it was applicable in this situation, Dr Shah’s patient safety concerns and how to address them according to GMC guidance and local policies.
She also discussed the issue of indemnity with Dr Shah and advised that the department consider approaching the Trust for clarity regarding indemnity for claims considering that the directive to assess patients in the ambulances was issued by the Trust, and that the patients were seen on hospital grounds albeit not physically in the department.
She was reassured that she may approach Medical Protection for assistance with any adverse event or complaint received, for instance to the GMC.
How did it end?
Dr Shah was pleased with the advice and information provided by the MLC and found the GMC guidance particularly useful, as they had had concerns about potentially falling foul of their professional obligations while being open to criticism from any adverse event that may arise as a result of the crisis. This supported the approach taken by Dr Shah when raising the issue further with her Trust.
NHS consultants, while usually supported by their Trusts, are still able to receive advice and guidance from Medical Protection to safeguard their own professional standing, as part of their membership.
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*Names and locations have been changed to protect member confidentiality.