The General Medical Council or GMC is the organisation that acts as an independent regulator for all doctors practising throughout the UK. They have the same focus they’ve always had – to protect all patients.
Interestingly, the GMC was actually formed back in 1985, decades before antibiotics were discovered and the establishment of the NHS. There were 19 different bodies that regulated the medical profession in the UK before the Medical Act was established and the GMC was formed. With different bodies, there were different competency tests used. According to the Census of 1841 around 1/3 of all the doctors in England were actually unqualified.
Professional titles were issued locally. This usually meant that then that a doctor who received their professional title in say Manchester or another city would not be able to practise medicine anywhere else. So, there was really no way of saying who exactly was qualified to be a doctor in the country and who wasn’t. That’s why the GCC was required.
The General Council of Medical Education and Registration of the United Kingdom was what it was called when it was originally established. The role of this body was to control and manage the medical education and registration of individuals throughout the country.
As is easy to imagine, it was not exactly easy to formulate the first medical register, as many thousands hurried to apply during the final days of that year, which delayed the finished publication by around six months. The almost-aptly-named Richard Organ holds the esteemed title of being the first individual removed from the GCC register because he lacked proper qualifications and in 1899 the council had its first hearing when a doctor was convicted of drunkenness.
What the GMC Does
The GMC works at providing protection for patients and support for medical practice and education throughout the UK. They do that by working alongside doctors, patients, educators, employers and all other stakeholders in the healthcare systems operating in the country.
The work the GMC does is outlined in the Medical Act of 1983 and covers five different areas:
- The Medical Register
- Standards for Doctors
- Education and Training
- Addressing Concerns
- The Medical Register
The GMC manages the medical register for the UK. There is in excess of 290,000 doctors registered with the GMC. The organisation checks each and every doctor on the register. They check their identities and qualifications to ensure they are legally allowed to join. This also involves contacting the previous employers of doctors to assess whether there are any issues with their ability to safely practise as doctors.
Standards for Doctors
The GMC sets the standards that define what a good doctor is, by establishing the professional behaviours, skills, knowledge and values all doctors should have if they want to practise medicine in the country.
Consultation with various people such as educators, employers, doctors and patients are involved when they are developing the standards.
Education and Training
The General Medical Council oversees all medical training and education. It is part of their job to ensure that all doctors receive the education and training necessary to help them deliver a high standard of care during their working life.
This is done by establishing the standards for both undergraduates and postgraduates of medical education and the monitoring of training environments.
A crucial part of the General Medical Council’s work involves maintaining and improving the standards of doctors in the UK through the process of revalidation. They believe it is vital that all licensed individuals in the country are fully up to date with their knowledge and their skills. This is assessed by working alongside very experienced senior-level doctors and ensuring that doctors have an appropriate appraisal every year. Following on from that, the senior doctors that work for them report to the GMC whether registered doctors are continuing to provide a good standard of care for their patients and keeping themselves up to date with the standards.
The General Medical Council treats all concerns raised about doctors as serious and carry out investigations into them. If there’s concerns about the behaviour of a doctor or the way they carry out their job, the GMC can assess if investigation is necessary in the first instance. However, in cases their patient’s safety or the confidence of the public in doctors is at risk, the organisation normally investigates those cases.
During investigations, the council collects and reviews all appropriate evidence. After the investigation has been completed, they may either:
- Offer a doctor a warning or some advice
- Form an agreement with the doctor that their work be carried out under supervision, or that they retrain or are restricted.
There are five core values that underpins everything the organisation does. These values are:
- Integrity – They are always honest and share exactly what they see. They also listen to their partners, while remaining independent
- Excellence – They are an organisation that are always learning and fully committed to the achievement of the highest standards possible
- Collaboration – They will work alongside others to support high standard and safe care
- Fairness – They respect and treat everyone the same, without any prejudice
- Transparency – They are always open and accountable to their actions