Coronavirus Bill - Increasing the health and social care workforce in England and Wales

This update focuses on the proposed extraordinary powers for the government to increase the available health and social care workforce in England and Wales

01 April 2020

The Coronavirus Bill (the 'Bill') is designed to give the government the necessary powers to manage the effects of the virus to the extent that this is possible. The effects of the Bill are wide ranging and this brief update focuses on the extraordinary powers proposed to increase the available health and social care workforce in England and Wales. Please note that different (through broadly equivalent) regimes apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Emergency Registration

The General Medical Council and General Pharmaceutical Councils already have powers to register doctors and pharmacists in an emergency. The Bill would allow the Registrars of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, Health and Care Professions Council and Registrars of Social Care in England and Wales to do the same: to temporarily register individuals to act as regulated healthcare professionals. This registration will cover: 

  • nurses;
  • midwives;
  • nursing associates;
  • paramedics;
  • biomedical scientists;
  • clinical scientists;
  • operating department practitioners;
  • physiotherapists;
  • social workers; and
  • any other relevant profession regulated by these bodies.

Criteria for Registration

The relevant Registrar must be satisfied that the relevant individual is 'fit, proper and suitable experienced' to be registered as a professional, with regard to the emergency.

Guidance anticipates that members of the relevant professions who are recently retired, students, trainees and those on sabbatical will be appropriate candidates for emergency registration, but it will be for Registrars to determine the relevant criteria.

Process for Registration

The Registrar may identify a group of persons that the Registrar considers to meet the fitness criteria and need not identify each person in the group individually, and may enact registration by noting on the register that the relevant people have been registered under this regulation. Fees cannot be charged in respect of these emergency registrations.

The Registrar may impose conditions of practise and revoke practicing rights at any time. It must revoke any practicing rights granted under these extraordinary powers if the Secretary of State advises that the emergency has passed. These registration powers are at the discretion of the relevant authority: there is no right of appeal if a Registrar refuses to register an individual or revokes their registration.

Remuneration

The Bill introduces a new form of unpaid statutory leave together with powers establishing a compensation scheme. Under this compensation scheme, the Secretary of State must make arrangements to pay emergency volunteers compensation for:

  • loss of earnings; and
  • travel and subsistence expenses.

It is important to note that this right to compensation only applies if the relevant individual has suffered a loss of earnings, and the amount of loss of earnings that may be claimed may be subject to a cap.

Responsibility for patients?

If a person breaches a condition of their registration then anything that they have done in breach of such condition shall be treated as if it had not been done by a professional regulated by the relevant Registrar. The Bill therefore also includes a broad indemnity coverage for clinical negligence provided which will be provided or procured by the Secretary of State. Guidance explains that this is designed to act as a 'safety net' where clinical negligence arises and the relevant loss is not already covered under pre-existing indemnity arrangements.

Supporting Materials 

The Coronavirus Bill itself can be found here, and the supporting explanatory notes published alongside the bill are available here

This update summarises the Coronavirus Bill’s proposed powers for increasing the available health and social care workforce in England and Wales, in particular, the criteria and process for registration, remuneration and responsibility for patients. If you require assistance with any of the issues discussed above, please contact Patrick Parkin or your usual Burges Salmon contact. Our healthcare and social care team is ready to assist all clients during these testing times.

Key contact

Patrick Parkin

Patrick Parkin Partner

  • Healthcare
  • Procurement and State Aid
  • Commercial

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