From missing medication to confidentiality breaches: resolving disciplinaries    

Making employees aware of what is unacceptable behaviour will help keep disputes in future to a minimum 

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 20 October 2022

Misconduct in GP practices should be dealt with quickly and appropriately to avoid it escalating into larger problems. A robust disciplinary policy helps employers clarify what conduct is unacceptable in the workplace, and clearly defines the rules employees are expected to follow. 

Key elements such as following the ACAS code and the practice’s disciplinary policies and procedures mean the practice is more likely to be fair and consistent in its decisions and reduce any risk of a successful tribunal claim.

There are several stages to dealing with misconduct, starting from the investigation through to the potential for an appeal against any sanction applied. The BMA EAS (employer advisory service) can help practices navigate through each one. Below are two cases where we made the complex process more manageable.

 

A nurse facing allegations concerning missing medication  

In a recent case, a practice nurse was accused of taking medication from the practice by a colleague. A GP partner contacted us for advice as they thought this may be grounds for dismissal.

The adviser guided the practice through the investigation process, and it was found that the medication had been disposed of because it was out of date. However, the required paperwork had not been completed.

The disciplinary process was instigated, and the EAS adviser coached the partner on conducting the disciplinary hearing. The decision was made to issue the nurse with a written warning which remained on her file for six months (in line with the practice’s disciplinary policy). 

Our BMA adviser provided templates for letters and confirmed that all the necessary details were included, the decision was reasonable and the practice staff were reminded of the need to follow procedures for the safe disposal of medicines.   

The investigation was crucial in this case, as any dismissal would have been unsafe and could have resulted in a claim against the practice.  

 

A routine audit showed a receptionist was repeatedly accessing patient records without a valid reason  

We guided a practice manager through an investigation and the provision of evidence which showed that their receptionist was accessing the medical histories of family and friends for their own purposes. The receptionist was suspended from work. 

In the invitation to the disciplinary hearing, the receptionist was advised of the serious nature of the breach of trust and confidentiality, and that one of the possible outcomes was dismissal for gross misconduct. Our BMA adviser provided the practice with the structure it needed to proceed to a disciplinary hearing, where the receptionist’s conduct was found to be so serious that they were dismissed without notice for gross misconduct.

We helped the GP partner draft the dismissal letter, including the right to appeal the decision. The receptionist did appeal, and the BMA adviser was able to support the GP partners in holding the appeal hearing. The original decision to dismiss was upheld, and the matter was resolved. 

These are just a couple of examples where EAS advisers have supported and guided our members through a legally compliant process, coaching members through approaching difficult conversations, assisting with any queries or concerns and achieving solutions for problems.

The service is part of BMA membership. If your GP partner is a member, get in touch.

If your GP partner is not a member, find out more and join the BMA.