Royal College of Physicians publishes ethical guidance for frontline staff dealing with COVID-19

Posted 2 April 2020

Date: 02 Apr 2020

Type: Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

We support ethical guidance by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) for frontline staff dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance advises that COVID-19 should not be a limiting factor in treatment decisions, and that frontline staff need to ensure that care is provided in a fair and equitable way. It covers:

Accountability - During the COVID-19 pandemic, all accountability for decisions still holds. While doctors may have to work outside their usual location or specialty, they will still be held accountable for their decisions, just as they would during their regular practice. 

Prioritising Resources - Where care between a COVID-19 patient and another patient in need of care is in question, care should be prioritised based on national guidance. Decisions should be made according to protocol, regardless of whether they are COVID-19 related; ideally by more than one clinician and, in Intensive Therapy Units, involving the entire multidisciplinary team. Beds, including Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) beds, should still be allocated according to continual assessment so that patients in most need are prioritised.

Workforce Safety - As well as having a duty to protect the public from harm, doctors have a right to protect themselves so that they can continue to care effectively. All frontline staff must have access to personal protective equipment. Frontline staff who are vulnerable, e.g. those over 70 and those with underlying health conditions, should refrain from treating patients with (or suspected to have) the virus, and should instead take on duties away from high risk areas. 

To access the full guidelines, click here.