Regulating doctors, ensuring good medical practice

Complaints and the role of the GMC

The General Medical Council (GMC) regulates doctors in the United Kingdom. Its governing body - the Council - is made up of both doctors and members of the public.

The GMC:

  • sets the standards of Good Medical Practice it expects of doctors throughout their working lives;
  • assures the quality of undergraduate medical education in the UK and co-ordinates all stages of medical education;
  • administers systems for the registration and licensing of doctors to control their entry to, and continuation in, medical practice in the UK;
  • deals firmly and fairly with doctors whose fitness to practise is questioned.

What action can the GMC take?

Before the GMC can take action to stop or limit a doctor's right to practise medicine, it needs evidence of impaired fitness to practise. This might be, for example, because they:

  • have not kept their medical knowledge and skills up to date and are not competent;
  • have taken advantage of their role as a doctor or have done something wrong;
  • are too ill, or have not adequately managed a health problem, to work safely.

We can also issue a warning to a doctor where the doctor's fitness to practise is not impaired but there has been a significant departure from the principles set out in the GMC's guidance for doctors, Good Medical Practice. A warning will be disclosed to a doctor's employer and to any other enquirer during a five-year period. A warning will not be appropriate where the concerns relate exclusively to a doctor's physical or mental health.

What the GMC can't do

The GMC cannot:

  • deal with concerns or complaints about nurses, pharmacists, dentists, opticians, hospital or practice managers or administrative staff, or anyone who is not a registered doctor;
  • normally give you a detailed explanation of what happened to you. This can only come from the doctor or health provider;
  • order a doctor to provide the treatment you want;
  • pay you compensation;
  • fine a doctor;
  • order a doctor to give you access to your records;
  • make a doctor apologise to you.

Legal framework for Fitness to Practise procedures

The legal framework for our Fitness to Practise procedures is set out in Medical Act 1983 and the Fitness to Practise Rules 2004. You can view the legislation and supplementary information on the Legislation page in the About Us section of the website.