The Assisted Dying Bill: the potential regulatory implications for health professionals

On Friday 22 October, Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill progressed to the Committee Stage after being debated in the House of Lords. If enacted, it will undoubtedly be a seminal moment in healthcare law. It would permit medical professionals to lawfully prescribe end of life medication to terminally-ill adult patients of mental capacity who are reasonably expected to die within six months (and voluntarily making such a request), essentially legalising physician-assisted suicide. Although the majority of speakers were in favour of the bill, Hansard reveals how many members hold great concern for the safeguarding of vulnerable individuals and for the impact the bill may have on the public’s trust in doctors. It is therefore entirely understandable why this issue is prompting such widespread debate.

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Gardner v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – Judicial Review Further Update

The public challenge brought by claimants Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris in respect of the government’s COVID-19 hospital discharge policy reconvened on Friday, 22 October. The days’ submissions followed from the adjourned hearing on Tuesday, 19 October, reported here. This blog will explore the key issues addressed at the hearing, and consider the way forward for the claimants’ case.

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What is the UK’s legal position on compulsory vaccination?

It has been confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccination will become compulsory for staff that care for the elderly and vulnerable. In enforcing such a requirement, organisations are likely to face a number of issues and potential pitfalls, and it is important therefore to explore the key steps if you are considering introducing compulsory vaccination for staff or those deployed in the organisation.

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Removing COVID restrictions – what will be the effect on the Social Care Sector?

The vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions are set to be removed in England on 19 July.  It’s worth noting that deaths in care homes with the involvement of COVID-19 have reduced substantially in recent months – see here for the most recent ONS statistics on reported deaths from care homes. But will this downward trend continue once restrictions are removed generally across the population, especially in view of rising infection levels? 

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Tort reform ideas outlined in maternity safety report?

Last week the Commons Health and Care Select Committee published what is likely to be a very significant report examining safety issues in NHS maternity care. The primary focus of the report is improving patient safety by learning from well-documented failings in East Kent, Shrewsbury and Morecambe and the report makes important recommendations on this aspect. A second strand of the inquiry was to review the effect that the current clinical negligence claims and litigation process has on improving outcomes and to consider if changes are necessary. The Committee found that they are and this blog summarises its recommendations on that topic.

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Optics: Remembering the basics during these extraordinary times

As the optical profession adapts to a new way of working, there are a number of themes that run through the guidance produced by the General Optical Council and professional bodies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; professional judgement, communication and record keeping. Keeping these fundamental principles in mind should help practitioners navigate their way through these turbulent times.

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What is the appropriate measure of diffidence/deference to be accorded to the MPT?

Dr Sastry & Dr Okpara v GMC [2021] EWCA Civ 623

Both Dr Sastry and Dr Okpara appealed against decisions by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPT) to erase their names from the register. Both appeals were dismissed at first instance as the High Court on each occasion was reluctant to interfere with the original tribunal’s decision.

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Government partially amends Coronavirus Act 2020 easements

We wrote this time last year about the introduction of easements to the 2014 Care Act via the Coronavirus Act 2020 (see here).  These easements allowed local authorities not to carry out certain duties placed up on them by the 2014 Act if the workforce was significantly depleted due to the pandemic or Care Act duties could not be met due to demand. 

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Care homes vaccinations consultation

Government launches consultation on staff COVID-19 vaccines in care homes with older adult residents.

A five-week consultation has been launched in a bid to further protect care home residents who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The consultation is seeking views from staff, care home providers, stakeholder, residents and their families on a proposal to make vaccines compulsory, by making it a condition of employment for all staff who are deployed in care homes with older residents.

In practice and in order to achieve this, the Government is considering amending the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, which would mean that older adult care homes could legally only deploy staff who have received the COVID-19 vaccination, unless they are exempt for medical reasons. It appears that cultural or religious objections to the vaccines will not be exempt.

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Regulatory Reform – the wheels are in motion

On 24 March 2021 the Department of Health and Social Care published an open consultation “Regulating Health Care Professionals, Protecting the Public“.  The consultation is set to run until 16 June 2021.

The consultation has been keenly awaited and follows the Government response of July 2019 to a consultation run in 2017.  Whilst change has been delayed owing to issues such as Brexit and, of course, the pandemic, it seems we are edging closer to reform of professional regulation.

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