A lever for change new standards for doctors in the UK come into effect

New professional standards for doctors, developed to meet the modern demands of medicine and drive culture change, come into effect from today.

The updated version of Good medical practice, issued by the General Medical Council (GMC), details the principles, values and standards expected of doctors. It takes effect after a five-month familiarisation period, following its publication last August.

It sees the first substantial changes to the document since 2013. The GMC carried out its biggest ever consultation process, gathering feedback from thousands of medical professionals, patients and others supporting the UK’s health services to make sure the changes were a shared agreement on what good practice looks like. 

Respondents supported a renewed emphasis on promoting positive workplace cultures, where doctors are supported to address bullying, discrimination and harassment.

"By focusing on compassionate, fair workplaces where people feel empowered to speak up, we lay a solid foundation for teamwork and ultimately, safer care for patients."

Charlie Massey

Chief Executive of the GMC

Updates have been made in five key areas: creating respectful, fair and compassionate workplaces; promoting patient centred care; helping to tackle discrimination; championing fair and inclusive leadership; and supporting continuity of care and safe delegation.

Last year, the GMC announced the updated guidance would state that doctors ‘must not act in a sexual way towards colleagues with the effect or purpose of causing offence, embarrassment, humiliation or distress’. This added to existing guidance that doctors must not act in a sexual way towards patients or use their professional position to ‘pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship’.

New additions have also been made on what to do if doctors, including those in leadership and management positions, witness any forms of bullying, harassment or discrimination.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

‘Good medical practice is the most important document we publish, and the feedback we’ve received is clear: positive culture is a golden thread running throughout. By focusing on compassionate, fair workplaces where people feel empowered to speak up, we lay a solid foundation for teamwork and ultimately, safer care for patients.’

Since the publication in August last year, nearly 100 promotional events and workshops have been completed, across all four countries of the UK, to thousands of doctors, as well as educators and medical students. Work to support the profession will continue over the coming months now updated the guidance is in effect.

The GMC has also refreshed and updated its more detailed guidance, which provides further support for doctors on particular topics, such as using social media, maintaining professional and personal boundaries, and delegation and referral.

Good medical practice will, in future, apply to physician associates and anaesthesia associates when they become regulated professionals under the GMC, expected by the end of 2024.

Mr Massey added: 

Good medical practice sets out a collaborative and shared understanding of what is expected of doctors working in the UK. It should be a catalyst for creating supportive workplaces that will benefit patients as well as doctors, and will help guide medical professionals through the challenges they face today and into the future.’

You can read the updated standards here.