Advice: Redeployment

If you are moved from other clinical areas to support work on Covid-19, your employer should make an assessment on the ability to continue to deliver safe and effective care in the services/areas affected.

Your employer has a duty to ensure that steps are being taken to mitigate any safety risks that may occur if you are moved to other areas and that these are recorded.

In all cases:

  • Your employer retains a duty to manage staff in a manner that takes account of their health (both physical and mental) and safety as well as the health and safety of patients.
  • Where staff are working outside their normal role, they need to continue to work within their scope of competence and receive adequate training and supervision.
  • The GMC has also issued guidance designed to ease the fears of doctors who may be redeployed to unfamiliar roles.

It states: “Patients must not be exposed to unnecessary risk. Difficult decisions may need to be made quickly about what is the safest and best course of action at any given time.

“When deciding the safest and best course of action in the circumstances, doctors should consider factors including: 

  • what is within their knowledge and skills
  • what support other members of the healthcare team could offer
  • what will be best for the individual patient given available options
  • the protection and needs of all patients they have a responsibility towards
  • minimising the risk of transmission and protecting their own health.”

It is important to note that while there may be mitigating circumstances many of the usual criteria by which doctors’ fitness to practice is judged will still apply during this period. Therefore, HCSA would advise a cautious approach to risk which is mindful of the GMC guidance.

You are also advised to review the NHS England and NHS Improvement publication Advice on acute sector workforce models during COVID-19.

Your questions: Redeployment

I have been told that I will be redeployed to help tackle Covid-19. Can I be made to work in a different area of medicine?

Advice: In view of the scale of the crisis, it is reasonable for an employer to ask you to act outside of your normal role and staff are obliged to follow the employer’s lawful and reasonable management instructions. A failure to do so might be considered a disciplinary matter.

However, if you feel pressure to undertake duties in a way that you do not consider to be safe or if you are asked to work in ways that you do not feel competent, then you should immediately challenge the request with management as advised above.

The earlier this is done the better.

This should be in, or confirmed in, writing. In expressing the challenge, it is important to outline your relevant inexperience and/or lack of training, the consequential risk to patient safety and, therefore, your reluctance to treat patients in some or all of the circumstances being demanded by your employer.

Identify the procedures and expertise required in the environment that it is proposed to redeploy you to, or where you have been redeployed to, and then make an objective assessment of those which you believe that you have the expertise to engage in safely.

Immediately inform management (and make a written note at the time of this for your records) of the procedures and expertise required that you do not believe that you have the competence to engage in safely and explain the rationale for your opinion. Do not undertake activities that you cannot perform safely but do perform those that you believe you can deliver safely. Consider recommending to management options for the reallocation of responsibilities such that overall capacity for the safe delivery of treatment is enhanced.

Seek additional training and guidance as far as you reasonably can in the circumstances. This can include preparing for work in a new setting by accessing online or local training to help improve your knowledge and skills in advance.

HCSA National Officers will support members in resisting unreasonable and unsafe requests.