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Report on medical professionalism launches at GMC Conference

Press Release

06 Dec 2016

This year’s General Medical Council (GMC) Conference will see the launch of a focused report looking at the challenges the medical profession faces and how these can be tackled through collaboration and teamwork.

It has been immensely gratifying to hear views and ideas from such a wide range of doctors, from across the profession and across the UK.

Professor Terence Stephenson

The Medical professionalism matters report is the culmination of 18 months of events and conversations with the medical profession, from GPs, consultants and trainees who work on the ground, to royal colleges, training providers and employers.

As is widely acknowledged many doctors feel the current environment is the most challenging of their careers, as the pressures of day-to-day practice rise with the often conflicting demands of doctors’ employers and the patients they care for.

Among the most frequently raised issues during the seven UK-wide events were the lack of time and support to make a reality of reflective practice – at every stage of a doctor’s career. Doctors also cited problems around professional isolation, fragmentation of care for patients and poor communication.

One of the biggest complaints was about the yawning communication gap between primary and secondary care, which many felt had worsened in the last 20 years. Meanwhile many felt that doctors in training were especially vulnerable because their constant rotations meant they never feel part of a team.

The GMC’s Chair, Professor Terence Stephenson, said:

‘We all know medicine is immensely challenging and sometimes issues can seem insurmountable. But throughout this series I have been incredibly heartened and encouraged by the amount of passion and determination participants showed towards finding collaborative solutions to the challenges the profession as a whole faces. It has been immensely gratifying to hear views and ideas from such a wide range of doctors, from across the profession and across the UK.’

A range of recommendations have been proposed by the Medical professionalism matters advisory group, in order to support doctors to deliver their best care, working in partnership with their patients. The recommendations are based on the themes that came out of the events. Some examples include:

  • The GMC and Medical Schools Council working with medical schools to make sure there is a stronger focus on understanding medical professionalism within the undergraduate curriculum. This would help students reflect on the realities of practice and the complex human interactions involved.
  • Medical schools strengthening their efforts to prepare students for the transition to practice.
  • Medical royal colleges and the GMC working together to reinvigorate continuing professional development, with an emphasis on reflection and changing practice rather than ticking boxes. This would include challenging areas of practice such as having difficult conversations and effective team working.
  • The GMC, alongside other systems regulators and improvement bodies, intensifying their efforts to promote a culture of openness, learning and candour, recognising that the professional may be the ‘second victim’ when things go wrong in healthcare.
  • All organisations doing more to recognise the intense pressure on the profession and make it more acceptable for people to ask for help when they are struggling. This would include the GMC continuing to implement its programme of reforms to take account of doctors’ mental health when facing fitness to practise procedures.

Professor Stephenson continued:

‘I hope this report will provide us with the start of an important conversation about how we can work together to achieve positive change. In taking findings forward we also need to celebrate everything that is astounding and transformational about the profession. World class scholarship, an extraordinary commitment to delivering the best for patients even under immense pressure and the teamwork and mutual support and the day-to-day human and scientific miracles that too often we take for granted.’

The themes of Medical professionalism matters will be discussed further at the GMC’s conference and the organisations involved through the advisory group have each committed to taking forward the learning through further conversations – all of which will be hosted on the website. This will also contain a range of tools and resources to help doctors reflect on these issues with colleagues at a local level.

At the conference the GMC will also be hosting workshops on a range of topics, such as the importance of insight in fitness to practise procedures, how revalidation can support doctors to demonstrate and develop their professionalism, how fair training pathways can be supported and the 21st century professional.      


Notes to editors

The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

  • We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
  • We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
  • We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public's confidence in doctors, at risk.

We are not here to protect doctors - their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.

We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.

We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.

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