Why are GMC credentials being introduced?

GMC credentials will help the profession to adapt to the future needs of patients and maintain consistent standards across the UK. Any credential will have to show it will address significant patient safety issues, and/or offer opportunities to develop doctors flexibly to help support more effective service delivery.

Areas of practice, currently components of training, where there is a patient need for increased provision

Credentials in these types of areas will provide some doctors with the opportunity and flexibility to extend their scope of practice, in relevant or related areas that are not, or were not, covered by their training. This would provide one way for the service to meet certain needs of patients and the healthcare service much more quickly. For example, a pilot credential in liaison psychiatry was developed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in response to the priority of improving mental health services. This has received positive feedback from both the doctors who've completed it, and from employers.

Areas of medicine with limited regulation where there is increased patient risk

Some doctors develop expertise in areas of medicine not covered during their specialty training. For example, a doctor who trained as a general surgeon might go on to work in cosmetic surgery. And where these areas carry evidenced known risks to patient safety if not practised correctly, it's important that patients and employers can assure themselves about doctors working in this area. Credentialing will give patients the opportunity to have access to a consistent and reliable way to check their practitioner has achieved a specified standard within that particular area.

We do recognise that this will not solve all of the patient safety issues, especially in areas where a wide range of regulated and unregulated professionals work, such as cosmetic interventions. The GMC only regulates doctors, but we are aiming to have a positive impact with credentials being part of that assurance. We are also working with other agencies to identify ways we can help improve patient safety overall within the cosmetic industry.

Emerging areas of practice that are not currently part of an approved training programme and where there is sufficient patient risk

As medicine changes and evolves, there will be new areas of practice that have not been part of an individual's postgraduate training and areas where a new need has been identified, such as rural and remote medicine. Credentials will provide a mechanism for these areas to have UK-wide consistent and recognised clinical and professional standards that will be delivered with appropriate supervision and support.

Extending and enhancing skills for specialists and/or GPs that are not covered sufficiently in training and where there is a patient need

While postgraduate training sets a baseline of knowledge, skills and capabilities, in some specific areas a doctor may require further training to build on their expertise in a discrete area. The majority of learning and development, outside of formal training, will not need approved standards and outcomes (for example post-certificate of completion of training (CCT) fellowships and continuing professional development (CPD)). But where there may be significant patient safety issues, where training opportunities are insufficient, or where they do not provide adequate flexibility to support effective service delivery, assured, consistent and recognised standards will be required.