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Navigating Legal Challenges in Remote consulting and Telemedicine Practice in the UK


Louise Marriott, a Gp Nurse Expert Witness at Apex Health Associates

Alternatives to the tradition face to face consultation have been on the rise in the United Kingdom, offering convenient healthcare access. Yet, it also presents legal complexities. In this guide, we'll explore the legal aspects of UK telemedicine, focusing on out-of-hours care, and how healthcare professionals, including nurses and midwives, can navigate these challenges effectively.



Ms Louise Marriott


Legal Framework in the UK


The General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) provide guidance and training covering all forms of consultation including face to face and remote modes. This guidance covers care standards, consent, and record-keeping. Maintaining professionalism, and partnership working with patients is essential.


Data protection laws, including GDPR and UK data protection legislation, must be considered when handling patient information. Ensuring patient data security is vital.


Apex Health Associates, a well-known UK Expert Witness Practice, specialises in navigating the emerging legal landscape relating to new modes of consultation including telephone, video consulting and remote electronic monitoring, often referred to as telemedicine. Louise Marriott, a senior Expert at Apex Health Associates, brings her experience in dealing with telemedicine, General Practice and Urgent Primary Care (out-of-hours) claims to the forefront.


Informed Consent and Confidentiality


Securing informed consent is a vital part of consultations and, in circumstances where a patient may be asked to consult with a clinician with whom they are not familiar, via remote means, this throws up challenges. Full patient comprehension of the aim of the remote consultation, the type of medical information available to the consulting clinician and the specific remit of that clinician is essential. Documentation is important and guidance as to depth and format is available for clinicians.


Clinical Negligence and Liability


Clinical negligence claims can arise in remote consultation and telemedicine in all healthcare settings. Claims often arise following a mismatch of expectations between the clinician and the client and can hinge on communication skills and techniques. Detailed documentation of the substance of the consultation and the clinical decisions, together with rationale is essential to mitigate legal risks. Issues particularly pertinent to consultations carried out remotely are often related to claims of delayed diagnosis and treatment, or the failure to organise investigations and referrals. It must be remembered at all times that there will be circumstances under which either physical examination or a referral for face-to-face investigation will be necessary. Clinicians should not be tempted to delay the arrangement of such vital parts of the episode of care.


Professional indemnity insurance remains a consideration for all practitioners even though the majority of NHS work is covered centrally. Private and NHS arrangements provide financial protection in the face of legal claims and enable access to the highest quality experts.



Future Trends and Regulatory Changes in new modes of consultation


As more agile modes of consultation evolve in the UK, staying updated on regulatory changes and adapting to the dynamic landscape is essential for healthcare professionals. The initial feedback from patients is encouraging with many valuing the increased availability of appointments


Conclusion


Moves towards embracing more agile modes of consultation offer better healthcare accessibility throughout the week. Addressing unique legal challenges requires adherence to the UK's legal framework, including NMC regulations, maintaining ethical standards, and staying informed about regulatory changes. Healthcare professionals can successfully navigate the legal landscape of telemedicine and remote consultation in the UK by remaining committed to a high standard of care working in partnership with patients though creative and innovative practices.

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