Can I collect health data in relation to Covid-19?
Yes. With respect to employees you have an obligation to protect their health so you can gather information to do that. You might gather information from your employees on who has the virus, who has had it and recovered and also who has tested negative. You might also want to know if individuals have been in contact with someone who has it or if they are in a vulnerable group. It is reasonable to want to know where individuals have travelled. In the future it may also be reasonable to know if they are planning to travel to a virus hot spot, as the impact of the virus around the world is likely to continue for some time even after the outbreak has been contained in the UK.
It is reasonable to gather some information about visitors to your site, be they customers or suppliers, as this information will also help protect your staff. However, you should keep what you gather to a minimum. For visitors, it’s unlikely that you need to know anything more than they have Covid-19, are displaying symptoms or have recently been in contact with someone who has the virus.
Any hearings attended in person will need to be approved by the judge hearing the matter, if necessary, in consultation with the regional lead COP judge. Such requests are highly unlikely to be granted during COVID-19 unless there is a genuine urgency. However, it is deemed to be appropriate matters are likely to be adjourned on the basis that a remote hearing is not possible and a hearing in person is not safe or possible.
The GMC recognises the challenges the doctors may face as the situation continues to develop. This includes concerns about the risks to the health of the doctors when treating patients with coronavirus. Doctors should follow the current public health advice including self-isolating if they know or suspect that they are infected or are at a higher risk of infection.
Finally, all necessary steps should be taken to ensure that doctors have access to protective equipment and minimise the risk of transmission when treating patients. It is imperative that a record is kept of all decisions made and how any safety or health concerns have been handled.
The GMC continues to work with NHS England and UK’s Chief Medical Officers to provide updates and advice to all doctors as the situation develops. Click here for more information.
Mortuaries are a sui generis use, unless ancillary to some other use of land, a hospital for example.
Sui generis uses are not within any Use Class. Consequently planning permission is required for the:
- Change in the use to a sui generis use
- Subsequently for the change in the use to an alternative use, whether that be another sui generis use or a use within a Use Class
Acknowledging the above, if the scale of the use is above de minimis, planning permission is likely to be required to change the use of a warehouse or factory unit into a temporary mortuary.
Should planning control be breached, a local planning authority must decide whether to take enforcement action or not. That enforcement is discretionary was recently reiterated in a Ministerial Statement issued on 13 March 2020 a link to which is below.
Depending on the form of the enforcement action, there could be a right of appeal.
The Office of the Public Guardian is continuing to accept applications to register Lasting Powers of Attorney but their usual estimated timescale of eight to ten weeks is likely to be affected by the current situation.
Consequently, an alternative or interim measure if you need something quickly is to execute a General Power of Attorney to authorise someone to act as your Attorney to undertake day to day financial transactions for you. The General Power of Appointment only needs to be executed by you in the presence of a witness (not the Attorney) to be valid and does not need to be registered with the Court of Protection. However, the Power of Attorney would cease to have effect if you become incapable of managing your affairs. It should be seen as a stop-gap only.
The guidance from the Government concerning private sector organisations is very different from the guidance for public sector and organisations that receive public funding. The guidance states:
“The government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs. Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to Covid-19 are not expected to furlough staff.”
This guidance isn’t particularly clear but it appears that there is a recognition that there are different types of organisations which could be caught by this:
- Organisations who will be required to provide frontline services during the Covid-19 response. It is interpreted that NHS organisations such as NHS Trusts will fall firmly into this category. Employees of such organisations are expected not to be furloughed and to continue to work and be paid their normal salary in the usual way.
- Organisations who receive public funding to provide services to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. These organisations are not expected to furlough their staff. The type of organisation that would fit into this category are those that have been commissioned to developing breathing apparatus or testing kits to meet the needs of the healthcare sector during the peak of the pandemic.
- Organisations who receive public funds for staff costs to operate services. Employers are expected to continue to pay staff if the money to pay them is publicly funded. It is strongly inferred that this is irrespective of whether such staff have any work to perform. The type of organisation that is likely to fall into this category are GP practices, charities and private sector companies that have won contracts with the public sector.