We have all heard of Health and Safety and generally breath a collective sigh of resignation at how society has changed in respect of regulatory compliance. But most will acknowledge the importance of a safe workplace and how it is the duty of an employer to make sure its staff are looked after. The healthcare sector is no different from any other, perhaps only in that for many of the newly emerging independent practices and clinics, this is a new area that they have no prior experience of managing.
Duty of Care
But ignorance does not excuse employers or employees from their obligations. Just as an employer has a duty of care to ensure that its staff are properly equipped and skilled for the jobs they undertake, employees are also obliged to make sure that they untertake the necessary training and guidance that their employer provides them with for their own wellbeing. Unlike the popular perception of the employer or ogranisation as the villain it is very much a partnership relationship, with both sides equally responsible for ensuring that every box that needs to be ticked, has been.
That said, we live in uncertain times. Never, in recent history has there been such a program of cuts and austerity measures within the public sector. Everyone is learning to tighten their belt and a consequence of reduced funding is inevitably a shrunken or completely abandoned training program.
But therein lies the opportunity. There might be less money in the pot for training in the traditional sense but the explosion of the internet and worldwide web has meant that information can be conveyed in the form of very rich content, instantly, anywhere in the world, and in virtually any language. People can be educated to pretty much the same standard as before but without ever leaving their desks. This might seem antisocial to the purists but at the same time, the average practice manager or office supervisor will admit that it is undeniably more practical for a member of staff to receive their training without ever having to leave the office and have their work covered by colleagues for half a day, a day or even longer.
Not only does online learning deliver an instant response to training demands but because the content is delivered in a standard consistent format every time, it is fully auditable. An employer gains the reassurance that their employees have received the proper instruction through the issue of a certificate of compliance at the end of a successful course. More than that, audit trails will uncover any serious problem areas within an employee's knowledge, thus an employee can address these problems individually and separately.
The consequences of non-compliance
The Corporate Manslaughter Act, introduced in April 2008, means that for the first time, organisations can be held to account for serious breaches of helath and safety legislation, where a fatality has occurred. Sentencing guidelines recommend a minimum level for fines of £500,000 in the event of a conviction.
In addition to this, the Health and Safety (Offences) Act came into force in 2009, to strengthen existing law and create the possibility of imprisonment for any employees who might have contributed to a health and safety offence by their consent, connivance or neglect. Individual employees therefore can be convicted and imprisoned under the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, while the organisation as a whole can be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act.