Complaints and the role of the GMC

We are an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

We're responsible for registering doctors to practise in the UK. Our purpose is to protect the public. We do this by promoting and maintaining:

  • the health, and safety and well-being of the public
  • public confidence in the profession
  • proper standards and conduct for doctors.

Every patient should receive a high standard of care. Our role is to help achieve that by working closely with doctors, their employers and patients, to make sure that the trust patients have in their doctors is fully justified.

What action can the GMC take?

Before we can take action to stop or limit a doctor's right to practise medicine, we need evidence that their fitness to practise is impaired. 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
  • do not have the necessary knowledge of the English language to practise medicine safely in the UK
  • 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 our guidance for doctors, Good medical practice. We will share a warning with a doctor's employer and with 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 can't the GMC do?

We can't:

  • 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 the Medical Act 1983 and the Fitness to Practise Rules 2004. You can view the legislation and supplementary information on our Legislation page.