Guidance for doctors on using registered name and GMC reference number
This page provides guidance to doctors on making their name and reference number available.
Your identity is precious to you, your patients and the GMC. The legal privileges which you enjoy as a doctor, including the right to prescribe, depend upon your being identifiable as a registered medical practitioner with a licence to practise.
The trust which patients place in you depends upon their being able to confirm that you are who you say you are.
This guidance sets out the meaning of the terms 'registered name' and 'GMC reference number', and explains the steps which doctors might take to publicise their names and reference numbers to everyone with whom they may have professional contact.
It is intended that those steps should be simple and practicable but sufficient to ensure that doctors can be readily identified.
Your GMC reference number
This is the seven digit number you are given when you first register with the GMC. You keep the same reference number throughout your career, whatever type of registration you hold and even if, for the time being, you do not have a licence to practise or are not registered at all.
The reference number is a unique identifier which enables patients, employers and others to confirm your registration details via the GMC's website, in particular whether you are licensed to practise medicine in the UK.
Your registered name
This is your full name as it appears in the Medical Register. Generally speaking, it will be the name that appears on your primary medical qualification certificate. If you wish to be registered under a different name, you will need to provide us with acceptable evidence of a change of name, such as a marriage certificate or old and new passports.
Using your registered name and GMC reference number
Most doctors use their registered name when practising. Some however use a varied, shortened or familiar form of their name in day-to-day contacts with patients or colleagues. Such a practice is acceptable but when completing prescriptions or signing statutory documents you should always use your registered name.
The GMC expects that all doctors will use their reference numbers widely to identify themselves to all those with whom they have professional contact.
The precise manner in which you do this will vary depending upon the nature and circumstances of your work. In following this guidance, you should aim to strike a balance between making yourself easily identifiable on the one hand and avoiding intrusiveness or self-promotion on the other.
What registered doctors must do
- Be familiar with your GMC reference number
- Use your registered name when signing statutory documents (including prescriptions)
- Make your registered name and GMC reference number available to anyone who asks
Additional steps doctors might consider taking
The GMC encourages doctors to take further steps to publicise their registered names and reference numbers including
- When creating or updating stationery or practice leaflets, ensure that these carry your registered name and GMC reference number.
- Unless it is already included in the letterhead, have your GMC reference number typed beneath your name at the bottom of letters and reports that you write.
- Where there might be any doubt as to your identity, include your GMC reference number alongside your signature when making entries in medical records.
- Consider, when circumstances allow, displaying your registered name and GMC reference number at your practice address (for example on a plate outside your premises, on the door of your office or consulting room, on your desk or on a name-badge.)
Why these rules were brought in
For almost 150 years, doctors in the UK were identified solely by their names and their registered addresses.
This is no longer either satisfactory or sufficient. An increasing number of doctors are known to their patients and other healthcare workers by names which differ from those under which they are registered. The publishing of doctors' addresses as a means of identifying them led to concerns in some sections of the profession about their personal security.
As a result, some doctors made their registered addresses PO box numbers, solicitors; offices or banks, which render them of little value as identifiers.
The system is susceptible to identity theft, a crime which used to be rare but has recently become quite common.
As a result the GMC decided it would no longer publish registered addresses. Instead, doctors are expected to make their names and their unique GMC reference numbers readily available to patients, other healthcare workers, healthcare institutions and other authorities as a basis for accurate identification.
These details are easily accessible to all via the GMC's website. The GMC already operates rigorous identity checks before registering doctors.
As a result, a doctor's registered name combined with a unique GMC reference number confers a high degree of confidence as to the identity of a particular doctor.