What we do - information for patients and the public

Our job is to protect you, the patient. All of our work is focused on helping make sure you receive good care from your doctor.

To achieve this, we are involved in every stage of a doctor’s career, from the moment they go to medical school to the moment they retire from practice.

The next generation of first class doctors

Firstly, we work with medical schools to ensure medical students receive a good education.

We set standards which medical schools need to meet, and carry out rigorous checks to ensure students graduate able to provide first class healthcare.

Following graduation, there is a two year training period called the Foundation Programme. After this doctors choose a specialty, such as cardiology, anaesthetics or General Practice.

We set standards for the period of their training and carry out detailed checks to make sure that doctors receive the training they need to provide good care for patients.

Ethical guidance

We set the standards and values of doctors, so they know how they should behave when they are with patients.

This covers common sense issues like listening to patients and treating them with respect.

It helps doctors deal with some of the problems they face, such as whether they should tell the police about a patient with knife wounds, or what to do if a patient refuses treatment that could save their life.

At present, there are no express statutory requirements or provisions dealing with professional indemnity arrangements for registered medical practitioners or those seeking registration with the GMC. There is no compulsory statutory requirement for any doctor to be a member of a medical defence organisation or to have professional indemnity or insurance arrangements.

However, since 1997, Good medical practice (GMP) has placed a professional duty on doctors to have such arrangements in place. Paragraph 63 of GMP provides that a doctor 'must make sure [they] have adequate insurance or indemnity cover so that [their] patients will not be disadvantaged if they make a claim about the clinical care [they] have provided in the UK’.

Our insurance and indemnity guidance has more information.

The medical register

There are 245,000 doctors on the UK medical register. It is our job to maintain the register safely, doing what we can within the law to ensure that for every doctor who joins the register, there are no concerns about behaviour, health or performance that could prevent them from doing their job.

We process tens of thousands of additions and changes to the medical register each year, and it’s vital we get each one right.

Regular checks

Once doctors are on the register it is important that regular checks are carried out to ensure they continue to be up to date and able to provide a good level of care.

At the end of 2012, we began to undertake a series of five yearly checks on doctors. We work with employers to ensure that their appraisal systems regularly check that doctors are up to date and fit to practise. This process of checking is called ‘revalidation’, and you can read more about this by following the link at the bottom of this page.

Concerns about doctors

Sometimes patients wish to complain about a doctor. We investigate complaints to see if the doctor is putting patients at risk.

Where we find a doctor poses an ongoing risk, we protect patients by restricting their practice or suspending them, for example while they re-train.

Some doctors are not allowed back to work because their actions are so serious that they undermine public confidence in the profession.

Sometimes in very serious cases we may have to remove them from the medical register, which we call ‘erasure’. This is often referred to as being ‘struck off’ the register, when cases are reported in the media.

We ‘regulate’ doctors

All these activities together amount to the ‘regulation’ of doctors. We want to be the best regulator we can be, so doctors can provide the best care for you.

Read more

Read more about the work we do in 

See also

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