General Medical Council 

On 25 March, the GMC published their updated version of ‘Good medical practice’, the core ethical guidance they provide to doctors. This follows a consultation in which more than 2000 doctors and 40,000 patients provided feedback. The guidance comes into effect on 22 April 2013.

The latest version will underpin the new revalidation system which came into force at the end of last year. The guidance is said to be ‘more concise’ and amended to ‘reflect changing attitudes of patients’.

It is the first time that guidance has been specifically given on the use of social media. The new guidance highlights that ‘using social media has blurred the boundaries between public and private life, and online information can be easily accessed by others’. It warns practitioners to be aware of the limitation of privacy online and advises them to regularly review the privacy settings for their social media profiles.

Whilst appreciating that there are a number of benefits of social media, such as engaging people in public health discussions and establishing professional networks, there are a number of risks. Doctors are reminded that its use may result in social and professional boundaries becoming unclear and guidance is given as to what to do if a patient contacts a doctor about their care via this forum.

Doctors are told that if they identify themselves as a doctor in a publicly accessible social media, they should identify themselves by name. They are reminded that ‘any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely’.

The guidance is also more explicit about a doctor’s responsibility when they become aware that basis care needs of patients are not being met, for example, when patients are unable to drink, feed or clean themselves. The guidance requires that doctors ‘must take prompt action if they think that patient safety, dignity or comfort is or may be seriously compromised’. If a patient is not receiving basic care to meet their needs doctors must immediately tell someone who is in a position to act straight away. Equally where they have concerns of patient risk due to inadequate premises or equipment, they must raise their concerns and make a record of the steps they have taken.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:

‘This guidance has never been more vital or relevant – the Mid-Staffs Inquiry has shown how important it is for all health professionals to understand and accept their responsibilities for patient care – Good medical practice spells this out for doctors and they will now have to show, through their annual appraisal, that they are meeting the required standards.’

Nursing and Midwifery Council

New directors

Three directors have been appointed by the NMC. NMC Chief Executive, Jackie Smith, has said that each of the new appointees has ‘an absolutely key priority on their plate – continuing to improve fitness to practise, revalidation and reviewing all our registration processes.’

The new Director of Fitness to Practise is Sarah Page, who has held the role on an acting basis since December 2011. She joined the NMC in 2004 as the Head of Legal Services, having held senior roles in the CPS.

Dr Katerina Kolyva has been appointed as Director of Continued Practice (leading on revalidation, education, standards, quality assurance of education and midwifery supervision).

Alison Sansome has been appointed as Director of Registration.

Overseas registration of nurses and midwives

On 1 February 2013 the NMC suspended overseas registration while they conducted a review of this issue, in light of concerns raised. The review is not complete, however, two issues have to date been identified.

Previous practice at the Council had been that applicants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US have been allowed to register after a 20 day course (whilst other applicants have needed a 3-6 month adaption course). It is likely that this distinction will be replaced with an assessment based on the training programe and work experience involved in each individual country, to ensure consistency in standards.

The NMC conceded that the approach that had been taken in relation to the certification of information relating to identity, training an registration material had been inconsistent. The Council say that they will resume overseas registrations on 2 April 2013 with ‘consistent policies and procedures’ and a ‘robust approach involving a high standard of proof, to protect the public’. They are considering requiring nurses to attend an NMC office in person with their ID documents, as the GMC requires.

They do not speculate as to the action necessary for those individuals already on the register.

They highlight that their legal powers to test the language skills of EU nurses are limited and it has called for new powers to do this.