The pandemic has thrown up new employment problems for practices, leading to a surge in inquiries to helplines, it has been reported.
Practice managers and GPs struggled with the implications of the pandemic, of long COVID, of staff fear of infection and of self-isolation, according to helpline staff. Practices sought advice about staff absences and behaviour with medical capability coming to the fore as an issue.
The Medical Defence Union released its analysis of calls to its employment law advice line, showing about 500 queries a year about sick leave. In the last calendar year, during the height of the pandemic, staff fielded 132 calls about medical capability issues – compared with just 52 the previous year.
Dr Caroline Fryar, from the MDU, said: “Both GPs and practice staff are used to dealing with high-pressure situations and making difficult decisions but the pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges and also presented many new ones. At the MDU, our role is to advise, support and lessen the burden on members and as such we encourage them to contact the employment advice line early if they are aware of a situation which may escalate further.”
Nicola Morgan, from the MDU, added: “Doctors and practice staff are becoming increasingly aware of employment law and want to make sure they follow good practice and comply with the law and regulations, such as those laid down by the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission.”