The recent exposure of serious failings within the NHS following the Stafford Hospital scandal has put medical professionals under increased scrutiny from industry regulators.
The General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will certainly be kept busy in the coming months and it’s likely that more alleged failings will come to light.
For those of us whose job it is to help defend doctors and nurses against alleged misconduct or professional negligence claims, it will be also be an interesting time.
Going off past experience, the public enquiries that follow these scandals often lead to an increase in the number of GPs and nurses accused of misconduct, many of whom go on to be exonerated of any wrongdoing.
This is why we always advise that legal advice be sought early by medical professionals who get caught up in such cases.
For example, we recently defended a case for a Lancashire-based nurse practitioner who worked in a busy GP practice and was accused of a number of procedural and administrative errors.
Following her dismissal, the practice made a formal referral of her to the NMC in London and hundreds of pages of evidence collated against her were to be considered by the NMC’s Interim Orders Panel.
I was instructed by my client in 2009 and following forensic examination of this evidence, alongside relevant medical law and procedural regime of the NMC, and upon instruction of senior London counsel, the panel decided it was not necessary to impose any restriction or other impingement upon her practice.
Thereafter, a substantive referral was made by my client’s previous employer to the Care and Competence Committee of the NMC, involving forensic examination of thousands of more pages of evidence. Following detailed investigation of these claims various witnesses were called to give evidence on behalf of my client, including a very senior London nurse.
The case finally commenced in London in early 2013 and after a four day hearing, involving cross-examination of my client and examination of other witnesses, no impairment was found over my client’s practice, and no sanction whatsoever was placed over her continuing practice.
We were successful on two fronts in this case. First by ensuring our client was able to continue working as a nurse during the three years it took for the case to be heard, and later when our client was absolved of any malpractice.
This was only possible because our client came to us at the beginning of the process and was therefore able to rigorously defend herself at those early hearings and interviews that can often make or break the case.
I await developments in Stafford with interest as I suspect there will be a number of medical professionals whose very careers will depend on their ability to mount a strong legal defence of their actions.
For more information on medical misconduct, or any other legal issues involving regulatory bodies, please contact me on 01772 258321 or David.Edwards@harrison-drury.com