• Employers and regulators will be “sympathetic” to doctors working outside normal areas, letter from UK chief medical officers will say
  • System leaders expect many clinicians will need to work outside areas of expertise to tackle coronavirus outbreak
  • Letter will also urge doctors not to resist new ways of working

NHS national leaders are set to reassure doctors they should not fear regulatory reprisals, within reason, if they end up working outside their areas of expertise during the coronavirus outbreak.

HSJ understands the UK’s four chief medical officers and the General Medical Council are drafting a letter to be sent to all UK doctors, which will contain the reassurances, as the system braces for a sharp rise in covid-19 cases.

The letter will also urge doctors to be flexible and not to resist new ways of working, with senior figures expecting many clinicians working in other specialities or locations during the outbreak.

The letter will say doctors, while still expected to follow good medical practice, should not fear reprimand from their employers or national bodies such as the GMC, NHS England or other regulators.

A source familiar with the letter told HSJ: “Flexibility is going to be expected for doctors [and] in return for that we expect employers, regulators and education providers to be sympathetic to doctors.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it did not comment on leaked documents. NHSE and the GMC have been approached for comment.

At the time of writing, 382 people have tested positive for covid-19 in the UK, including health minister Nadine Dorries, who is currently self-isolating. Six people with the virus in the UK have died.

NHSE and Public Health England announced this morning NHS laboratories will increase the number of coronavirus samples being tested from 1,500 to 10,000 per day.