Completed research

Below is a list of all our published research reports. Click on the title to access the synopsis and full report.

We have also collaborated with the Economic and Social Research Council on a programme of research.

Many of our reports are commissioned from organisations that are independent of the GMC. This means that we may not share the views and opinions given in the reports.




Research title



March 2018Good medical practiceRegulatory approaches to telemedicineReview of regulatory approaches to telemedicine around the world.Definitions of telemedicine are complex and multifaceted with some variability across countries.
March 2018Education and trainingIdentifying unmet needs from the Gateways to the professions guidanceSurveys and interviews with medical education providers and studentsMedical education providers want updated guidance to include assurance for decision-making processes and tools for quickly accessing the content. The findings also outline key principles for supporting disabled students and doctors in training.
November 2017Concerns about doctorsPreventable Patient Harm across Health Care ServicesA systematic review of 149 distinct studies with meta-analysis.Studies typically classify patient harm as preventable if it occurs as a result of a modifiable cause, and recurrence can be avoided by reasonable adaptation to a process or adherence to guidelines. At least 6% of patients experienced preventable harm.
October 2017Good medical practiceDoctors’ attitudes to consent and shared decision makingFocus groups and an online bulletin board with doctorsThe research found doctors are familiar with the broad principles of consent and shared decision making but less with the need to individualise the conversation to patients.The report identifies challenges associated with meeting the guidance.
September 2017Good medical practiceUnderstanding how organisations ensure that their decision making is fairRapid Evidence Review and interviews with GMC staff, academic experts and interviewees in three comparator sectors: healthcare regulation, legal regulation defence and security.The research gave an overview of decision making tools, practices and processes for fair decision making.
August 2017Good medical practiceThe Future Operating Environment for Professional Medical RegulationScenario planning study involving quantitative desk based research; interviews with key experts; a scenario planning workshop; testing scenarios with doctorsFour evidence based scenarios provide alternative models of the GMC’s future operating environment. A comprehensive list of key drivers shaping that environment is provided.
June 2017Good medical practiceGMC tracking survey 2016A survey was undertaken of the views of our key interest groups – doctors, medical students, educators, the general public and patients, stakeholders, parliamentarians and employers.Generally, there was a high level of confidence in the GMC’s regulation of doctors; doctors were the least positive of our key interest groups, although three-quarters still reported that they were confident.
May 2017Education and trainingFair Training Pathways for All: Understanding Experiences of Progression. Part 2.Focus groups and interviews with representatives of royal colleges and employers explored perceptions of how significant and amenable to change were the risks to trainee progression identified in Part 1 of the research.Participants recognised the conclusions of part 1, and identified being ‘different’ from the dominant or majority group (eg lack of familiarity with UK cultural norms) as being of particular significance.
March 2017Concerns about doctorsUnderstanding employer’s referrals of doctors to the General Medical CouncilTrust staff from 11 acute trusts in England who were involved in the local process of raising concerns participated in an interview.Local processes for raising concerns varied between trusts but all favoured local resolution where possible. Participants identified a number of promising approaches which enabled trusts to better deal with concerns and suggested a number of ideas.
February 2017Concerns about doctorsUK health regulator comparative data report 2016 A survey of key data from UK health regulators.The report includes comparable data from the UK health regulators from 2011 - 2016 on the number of registrants, enquiries, complaints, investigated complaints and serious outcomes. The report was prepared for the Chief Executive Steering Group.
July 2016Education and trainingFair training pathways for all: understanding experiences of progressionQualitative research with doctors in training and trainers undertaken to explore barriers and enablers of progression that impact on different groups of doctors.Postgraduate medical training presents risk for all doctors in training. However, BME UK graduates and International Medical Graduates face additional risks to progression when compared to their peers.
April 2016Good medical practiceExploring patient and public attitudes towards medical confidentialityQualitative research to explore attitudes to confidentiality and the revised Confidentiality guidance with groups of patients and the public.There were strong levels of agreement throughout the research with the principles outlined in the draft guidance.
April 2016Registration and licensingShaping the future of medical revalidation – interim report (January 2016)The interim report contains findings from three surveys conducted in 2015: of doctors licensed to practise (excluding doctors in training); of Responsible Officers from across the UK; of patient and public representatives.The report presents emerging findings from the UMbRELLA (UK Medical Revalidation Evaluation Collaboration) study into the regulatory impacts of revalidation. The study is due to conclude in 2018.
November 2015Education and trainingUnderstanding differential attainment across medical training pathways: A rapid review of the literatureLiterature reviewAlthough there isn’t agreement as to the causes of differential attainment, the literature suggests the explanation is likely to involve multiple factors, and any attempt to mitigate or address this issue will need to take account of this complexity.
November 2015Concerns about doctorsAnalysis of cases where doctors were erased or suspended from the medical register.The research was mainly qualitative with some quantitative analysis of erasure and suspension cases in 2014.The majority of cases where doctors were erased or suspended from the register in 2014 related to an incident in the doctor’s working life, but there were also some cases relating to doctors’ personal lives.
November 2015Education and trainingExploring the Relationship between General Practice Selection Scores and MRCGP Examination Performance Trainees’ scores during selection tests for General Practice training were matched with scores on tests taken during that training. The relationship between these results was explored.The scores of candidates applying to enter General Practice training can be good indicators of the progress they will make during that training.
November 2015Concerns about doctorsThe effects of having restrictions on practice or warningsDoctors who had been given a warning, undertaking or condition between 2006 and 2013 were invited to participate in an interview and/or a survey. A range of employers were also invited to participate in an interview.While its not always the case, being given a warning by the GMC can have a significant long-term negative impact on a doctor. Further, although some doctors who were given restrictions were able to remediate, this was not the case for many.
October 2015Education and trainingFoundation doctors, transitions and emotionsThe research study was explorative and used a qualitative approach involving audio diaries and interviews.The research identified the strategies foundation doctors use to manage their emotions, and the links between the environment and team they work in and healthy approaches adopted to managing emotions in the workplace.
October 2015Registration and licensingReviewing the suitability of English language tests for providing the GMC with evidence of doctors’ English proficiencyThe research study adopted a mixed methods approach, which involved a systematic documentary review of selected tests combined with desk-based internet research.It was possible to identify reasonably equivalent test scores to our requirements for IELTS in eight out of the nine shortlisted tests. However, best practice would be to conduct a separate standard setting study to determine appropriate pass/fail scores.
October 2015Education and trainingIdentifying the work activities performed by doctors in the Foundation ProgrammeMixed-methods approach involving questionnaires, focus groups, and telephone interviews with Foundation Programme (FP) doctors, nurses, supervisors, senior clinicians, and senior non-medical employers.While many of the activities required in the GMC's 'outcomes for graduates' are routinely undertaken by FP doctors (for example, interpreting investigations, prescribing), a substantial number are not (for example, basic observations, giving injections)'.
August 2015Good medical practiceReview of public and professional attitudes towards confidentiality of healthcare data A literature review complimented by contact with experts to explore what existing evidence tells us about public and professional attitudes towards the confidentiality of healthcare data.The review found that sharing information between individuals in a patient's healthcare team was felt to be acceptable. However when it came to sharing information with others outside the healthcare team, opinions differed more strongly.
May 2015Education and trainingA systematic review on the impact of licensing examinations for doctors in countries comparable to the UKThe systematic review explored published and grey literature in countries comparable to the UK to establish the existing evidence base for the validity of medical licensing exams including their impact.The literature shows correlations between doctors' performance in licensing examinations and subsequent examination performance, some patient outcomes and rates of complaints. But otherwise the debate is weak on evidence.
April 2015Registration and licensingReviewing the List of Registered Medical Practitioners (LRMP): options for developmentThe research explored how our online register is currently used by different groups and how it could evolve to better meet their needs. It included surveys, rapid evidence reviews, interviews and focus groups with a wide range of stakeholders.Change is necessary and welcome, both in content and functionality. Compared with some other jurisdictions, LRMP offers limited information. There is agreement on what some extra information categories should be but mixed views on other areas.
April 2015Concerns about doctorsChief Executive Steering Group Survey 2014A survey of key statistics from UK health regulators.The report includes comparable statistics from the UK health regulators on the number of registrants, enquiries, complaints, investigated complaints and serious outcomes.
April 2015Good medical practiceGMC tracking survey 2014A survey was undertaken of the views of our key interest groups – doctors, medical students, educators, the general public and patients, patient and doctor representative bodies, employers and members of parliament.Generally, there was a high level of confidence in the GMC’s regulation of doctors; doctors were the least positive of our key interest groups, although three-quarters still reported that they were confident.
March 2015Concerns about doctorsReview of decision-making in the General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise proceduresA mixed-method approach was adopted which included an evaluation of our criteria and guidance, analysis of 187 case files, and analysis of how we present allegations of impairment to doctors at the end of our investigations.The decisions reached by GMC staff in all reviewed fitness to practise case files were found to be appropriate and in line with the guidance and criteria set out for decision-makers.
December 2014Concerns about doctorsSkills fade literature reviewThe literature review explored published research on the subject of how time out of practice affects skills, competence and performance. The review covered doctors, other health professionals and other skilled professions.Skills can decline over periods ranging from six to 18 months with a steeper decline at the outset and a more gradual decline as time passes; various factors, such as keeping in touch with peers and staying aware of developments, can mitigate this.
December 2014Good medical practiceEvaluation of the General Medical Council’s Learning Disabilities WebsiteMixed-methods approach including critical review, analysis of usage data, doctor focus groups and stakeholder and partner workshop.The research presents a positive picture of the learning disabilities website and how it was developed and identifies improvements and lessons for similar future projects.
November 2014Concerns about doctorsExploring the experience of public and patient complainants who have been through the GMC’s Fitness to Practise proceduresInterviews were undertaken with a sample of members of the public or patients who had a complaint taken through our procedures between July 2012 and September 2013.The research identified areas complainants felt could be improved, for instance keeping them better informed whilst investigations are underway.
November 2014Concerns about doctorsExploring the experience of doctors who have been through the GMC’s complaints proceduresA survey was undertaken of doctors who had a case that closed in 2010. The survey was complimented by interviews with a random sample of doctors who had completed the survey.The research identified areas doctors felt could be improved, for instance better vetting of initial complaints and more updates on progress when their practice is being investigated.
October 2014Education and trainingHow prepared are UK medical graduates for practice?A Rapid Review of literature, interviews and focus groups with key interest groups (e.g. recent graduates, trainers and employers) and audio diaries kept by recent graduates.The research presents a mixed picture regarding how prepared graduates are: in some areas of practice they're prepared, but in others there's room for improvement.
September 2014Registration and licensingAssessing the equivalence of PLAB graduates to UK graduatesData relating to doctors performance on the PLAB test was linked to data relating to the same doctors’ performance on the MRCP(UK) and/or the MRCGP exams. This was compared with the performance on the same exams by UK graduates.The evidence suggests that the knowledge and skills of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who had passed the PLAB test were substantially below those of UK graduates at the point when they sat the same post-graduate examination.
September 2014Registration and licensingDeveloping an evidence base for the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) TestA literature review complimented by contact with international experts and national and international professional bodies.Resits of the test should be limited to four. Methods for determining cut scores have acceptable reliability and validity, but alternatives should be considered and further data gathered.
September 2014Registration and licensingThe Validity of the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) Exam: Research ReportAn analysis was undertaking of doctors outcomes for IELTS tests, PLAB tests, ARCP assessments and GMC Fitness to Practice data to identify relationships between these.The evidence suggests that the knowledge and skills of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who had passed the PLAB test were not equivalent to those of UK graduates.
July 2014Concerns about doctorsUnderstanding the rise in Fitness to Practise complaints from members of the publicMixed-methods approach involving statistical analysis of Fitness to Practice data, media analysis (quantitative and qualitative), a literature review and interviews with key individuals.Wider social changes have interacted with factors specific to the GMC and healthcare to drive the increase in complaints.
May 2014Concerns about doctorsFairness and the GMC: Doctors’ viewsFocus groups and a large-scale survey exploring doctors perceptions of the GMC. Responses were analysed to determine if views differed depending on ethnicity.Although the vast majority of doctors are confident in how the GMC carries out its role, more needs to be done to build trust among certain groups of doctors.
April 2014Registration and licensingEvaluating the strategic impact of medical revalidation: Building an evaluation frameworkExploring the views of key interest groups and reviewing literature in order to inform the development of a framework for the evaluation of the impact of revalidation.Four work streams for assessing the impact of revalidation identified, focusing respectively on supporting information, appraisal, responsible officer judgment making and patient and public involvement.
February 2014Registration and licensingIdentifying the appropriate IELTS score levels for International Medical Graduate applicants to the GMC registerStandard setting exercise using mixed stakeholder panels.The minimum overall score of 7.0 in the International English Language Testing System test is no longer adequate to prove English language ability.
November 2013Registration and licensingFactors that impact on medical student wellbeing - Perspectives of risksSurvey of medical students at eight medical schools.Monitoring medical student perceptions across eight core domains can provide an indication of student wellbeing during medical training.
July 2013Education and trainingIdentifying good practice among medical schools in the support of students with mental health concernsMixed-methods approach encompassing systematic literature review, an online survey and structured telephone interviews with medical schools together with focus groups and narrative interviews with medical students.Medical students are often reluctant to ask for help with mental health issues, but there are key practical steps medical schools can take to help.
April 2013Good medical practiceThe standards expected of doctors: Patient & public attitudesQualitative research investigating patients’ attitudes and expectations.Doctors should leave their personal beliefs ‘at the door’, providing treatment or advice in a non-judgmental way and not allowing their views to interfere with the treatment or care they provide.
April 2013Good medical practiceGMC – Follow up qualitative research to the 2010 Guidance SurveyFocus groups exploring in depth doctors attitudes to our guidance, particularly what would help them access our guidance more readily and any barriers to use.Negative opinions of the GMC coupled with a perceived lack of targeting limits the uptake and utility of our guidance.
April 2013Good medical practiceGeneral Medical Council - Guidance surveySurvey of doctors’ attitudes to our guidance, particularly its relevance and helpfulness.The majority of doctors view our guidance positively, but many want better communication, particularly regarding relevance to practice.
April 2013Education and trainingAssessing the impact of continuing professional development (CPD) on doctors’ performance and patient / service outcomesSemi-structured telephone interviews and in-depth reviews.Continuing professional development is more effective when integrated with appraisal, when followed by personal reflection (with time allocated for this) and when provided with organisational support to facilitate subsequent change.
February 2013Education and trainingThe Impact of the Working Time Regulations on Medical Education and TrainingMixed-methods study of the impact of the full implementation of the Working Time Regulations on doctors education and training.While the regulations are leading to fewer hours, some problems such as stress and fatigue remain. Concerns exist over rota design and the sensitivity of existing quality management to the number of hours worked.
February 2013Education and trainingIdentifying best practice in the selection of medical studentsLiterature reviews complemented by a telephone survey with UK medical admissions deans and teams from a number of medical schools.The evidence base is stronger for some methods compared to others, for example, multiple mini interviews and situational judgement tests over more traditional interviews. However, the evidence for widening access initiatives is more limited.
November 2012Good medical practiceBarriers and enablers of good practiceLiterature review.Barriers to good practice include habit, information overload and workforce pressures; enablers included a perception that guidelines are authoritative, relevant and easy to implement and the presence of good role models.
May 2012Education and trainingDeveloping an evidence base for effective quality assurance of education and trainingMixed methods approach comprising literature review, questionnaire and interviews with comparable UK and international regulatory bodies. Views were also sought from medical schools and deaneries.Quality assurance is increasingly giving greater priority to quality enhancement over accountability, proportionate risk based targeting over cyclical models and standard setting which focuses more on outcome than process.
May 2012Education and trainingInvestigating the prevalence and causes of prescribing errors in general practice: The PRACtICe studyMixed methods approach comprising retrospective case note review, depth interviews with prescribers, focus groups with members of the primary healthcare team and root cause analysis.One in 20 prescription items contain either a prescribing or monitoring error, affecting one in eight patients. The report sets out recommendations for improving the safety of prescribing.
February 2012Registration and licensingGMC multi-source feedback studyA large-scale survey of doctors, and the use of a range of statistical approaches to assess performance of GMC developed patient and colleague questionnaires as part of a three year programme of research.The study found GMC developed questionnaires sufficiently robust for use in the preliminary rollout of obtaining colleague and patient feedback for revalidation.
February 2012Education and trainingResearch into perceptions of CESR/CEGPR routes to registrationA survey complemented by a small number of interviews exploring views on alternative routes of entry to the GP or Specialist Register for doctors who have not followed an approved postgraduate training programme in the UK.The overall view of the profession is that the capability of a doctor varies and this is not related to route of certification. However Certificates of Completion of Training (CCTs) are preferred over other routes.
September 2011Concerns about doctorsResearch into Fitness to Practise referrals from PAPCsMixed methods study investigating a rise in Fitness to Practise enquires to the GMC from people acting in a public capacity (PAPCs).Attitudinal change within the National Health Service, coupled with improved governance and management systems contributed to an increase in fitness to practise referrals from PAPCs.
August 2011Education and trainingThe impact of the implementation of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD)Mixed-methods approach comprising telephone depth interviews and onlineConcerns were identified that the European Working Time Directive would negatively affect training and that its implementation would need to overcome a ‘long-hours’ culture in areas of practice.
August 2011Education and trainingSpecialties, sub-specialties and progression through training: the international perspective national perspectiveLiterature review.Specialities, subspecialties and progression through training vary considerably across countries. This review provides an overview of this subject for the USA, Canada, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
July 2011Education and trainingCPD – the international perspective Literature review.This review presents an up-to-date, detailed international perspective of continuing professional development programmes and requirements for doctor covering almost 30 countries.
April 2010Education and trainingRisk factors at medical school for subsequent professional misconduct: a multi-centre retrospective case-control studyDoctors who had enquires made about them investigated between 1999 and 2004, were compared with controls chosen at random from the same medical school graduation cohorts.Although from a small sample, findings suggest that factors such as being male, coming from a lower socio economic background, and having failed early course examinations are independent predictors of later professional misconduct.
December 2009Education and trainingAn in depth investigation into causes of prescribing errors by foundation trainees in relation to their medical education - EQUIP studyMixed-methods approach including literature reviews, an evaluation of the prevalence and nature of prescribing errors made in hospitals and interviews with foundation year one doctors and leaders of undergraduate programmes.Just under 9% of medication orders checked contained an error; however few prescribing errors caused harm to patients because almost all are intercepted and corrected before reaching them.
May 2009Good medical practiceInternational comparison of ten medical regulatory systemsDesk-based internet research complimented by key informant interviews.The study recommends that assistance to non UK-qualified medical graduates be provided to help them adapt to and understand the UK patient-centred approach to medical practice.
April 2009Good medical practiceNon UK qualified doctors and Good Medical Practice: the experience of working within a different professional frameworkMixed-methods research including a survey and interviews with doctors, interviews with individuals involved in training and support for non-UK qualified doctors and desk-based internet research.Non-UK qualified doctors have difficulty accessing information and support that would help them to apply GMC guidance in practice.
December 2008Education and trainingHow prepared are medical graduates to begin practice?Mixed-methods approach exploring and comparing the views of students and other stakeholders regarding preparedness at three medical schools.Undergraduates’ preparedness to begin the Foundation Programme is improved by increasing experiential learning in clinical practice as part of their undergraduate programme.