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GMC publishes first guide for patients on what to expect from their doctor

Press Release

22 Apr 2013

A new guide for patients setting out what they should expect from their doctor has been published by the General Medical Council (GMC).

We firmly believe that the patient needs to be at the centre of a doctor’s practice, and this guide is a useful tool to assist clinicians in achieving that goal.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of Patients Association.

Good medical practiceThe new guide is based on the GMC’s core guidance for doctors - Good medical practice. It explains the key duties of a doctor and how patients can help to create a good relationship with their doctor and get the most out of their consultations and treatments.

The guide, What to expect from your doctor, sets out:

  • The duties of a doctor to be honest and open if things go wrong and to make patient care their first concern
  • The importance of dignity and respect in the patient-doctor relationship      
  • The standard of conduct, knowledge and skills that patients should receive from their doctor

The guide reflects the ambition of the recent inquiry report into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust which called for patients to be put at the heart of healthcare.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said: 

‘Much of the new guide is commonsense, but we know that patients get the most benefit when they are able to work in partnership with their doctors. We hope it will prove useful and help foster stronger relationships between doctors and patients - based on a clear understanding of their respective responsibilities.’

Dr Daniel Poulter MP, Health Minister, said:

'The vast majority of doctors have an excellent relationship with their patients. However, the Francis report highlighted that there is much more we need to do to put patients at the heart of healthcare.  Doctors have a big role to play in this and I hope that this guidance will help patients create a better partnership with their doctor, where they feel involved in decisions about their care.'

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of Patients Association, said:

‘The Patients Association is happy that the GMC’s publishing a guide aimed at patients. We firmly believe that the patient needs to be at the centre of a doctor’s practice, and this guide is a useful tool to assist clinicians in achieving that goal. It also provides useful information to patients about what behaviour, support and assistance they should reasonably expect from their doctor.’

The guide for patients is based on the standards for doctors in the updated edition of the GMC’s core guidance Good medical practice – which comes into effect today for all 250,000 doctors on the medical register. This is the 5th edition of Good medical practice which was last updated in 2006.

Niall Dickson added:

Good medical practice is the foundation of medicine in the UK. It sets out the principles which should govern the actions of every doctor – although there are very clear do’s and don’ts in the document, it also relies heavily on the judgement of individual practitioners – which is at the heart of what it is to be a professional.

‘We will now work with patients and patient groups to spread the word about their new guide while continuing to work with the profession to ensure every doctor is aware of the standards required in the updated Good medical practice.’

The updated guidance for doctors makes clear that their responsibility goes beyond providing good clinical treatment – the doctor must take a lead role in making sure that patients receive high quality compassionate care.

Doctors will also need to demonstrate at their annual appraisal how they are meeting the standards in the guidance to ensure that they are up to date and fit to practise.

A range of materials for doctors have also been launched today, including new interactive case studies, relevant fitness to practise examples and a mobile version of the guidance for smart phones.

What to expect from your doctor: a guide for patients is available online or as a short booklet.