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The Certificate of Fitness for Honorary Practice

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15 May 2013

From today, NHS consultant doctors can apply for certificates that will help verify them for short-term work elsewhere in the NHS or at universities.

This initiative is designed to help improve responsiveness to patient emergencies and to enable more consultants to be present providing extra support, when and where patients need them.

The existing system requires checks to be resolved before consultants can transfer between organisations and this can often be a lengthy process, taking up to several weeks. However, consultants who are successfully eligible for the new certificates will immediately be able to carry out short-term, ad hoc or urgent activity in other hospitals and universities.

Called The Certificate of Fitness for Honorary Practice, it has been developed by NHS Employers and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC).

Rather than replacing the more detailed and time-consuming honorary contract, this certificate will enable short-term placements by ensuring all consultants' employment checks - such as occupational health and Criminal Record Bureau checks - are up-to-date and agreed. The certificate is then held on the consultant's file, to be produced when they are invited to assist in patient care or training at another organisation on a short term basis.

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said:

"This certificate retains all of the safeguards that ensure doctors are fit to work. But it will help doctors to work across organisations, being in the right place, at the right time, when patients and colleagues need them most.

"We've been looking at what's happened in the NHS and seen occasions where there's simply no time to carry out the mandatory checks when a consultant is best placed to do short-term work elsewhere. We're really pleased to have worked with the AoMRC to produce a workable, efficient way of speeding up the process.

"Having an 'honorary contract' with another organisation is already common among consultants. But the new certificate expedites all the other checks that come with honorary contracts, and creates short-term opportunities when those contracts aren't in place.

"Adaptability is essential in modern healthcare and I hope this is just one of many changes that see doctors working more flexibly right across the NHS."

Professor Terence Stephenson, Chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said:

"The certificate will make it quicker and simpler for doctors to work temporarily at another trust, which will benefit patient care and treatment as well as doctors' skills. Too many times opportunities have been missed by the extended time it takes to obtain an honorary contract. It is essential that we make it easier for doctors to support the NHS as a whole by being able to cover absences and emergencies as well as improving their own training and skills in other trusts.

Su-Anna Boddy, Consultant Paediatric Urologist, Royal College of Surgeons England, said:

"This certificate provides excellent opportunities for improved patient care by allowing clinicians to move between trusts much more easily than is currently the case. In particular, allowing them to work in other hospitals with significantly reduced paperwork will help doctors to share expertise and facilitate better working across clinical networks."

The certificate can be used for:

  • emergency or occasional treatment of a patient (e.g. to cover sick leave)
  • promoting continuity of care of a patient
  • allowing a consultant to provide short-term specialist training to other clinicians in the area of his/her expertise
  • allowing a consultant to receive short-term training/continuing professional development  to expand their skills in an area of practice that is new to them or in innovative techniques and technology.

The certificate is not intended to be used for:

  • providing evidence of personal identity
  • ongoing honorary employment or research activity (an appropriate honorary contract should be used)
  • making an offer for long-term paid or unpaid employment
  • any other circumstance where an honorary contract is more appropriate 
  • sanctioning activity when the consultant is scheduled to be working for his/her substantive employer (except by agreement with the substantive employer)
  • locum appointments
  • remediation purposes.

More details and documents are available here.

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