A message from our Acting Chair Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen

As we move into February, the pandemic continues to put our health services and our profession under strain. I want to assure you that your continued dedication and professionalism are recognised and appreciated.

I would also like to reassure you that we will do all we can to support you to ensure you remain enabled to provide safe patient care.

After almost two years of the pandemic, doctors’ workloads are increasing; and fatigue and burnout are on the rise – something emphatically underlined in the findings of our The state of medical education and practice in the UK report. Working in depleted teams, facing daunting backlogs in patient care, treating people with more advanced disease and working outside our usual area of practice or under restricted conditions have become commonplace.

Recognising these difficult working conditions, we have recently updated our guidance for decision-makers to reflect what has now become the sustained nature of the situation and its long-term pressures. When I wrote to you last year, I made it clear that the GMC will continue to take the context of the pandemic into account if a concern is raised with us and this provides some flesh to the bones of that statement.

In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to have working environments that are supportive, inclusive and safe – with the confidence to be able to raise concerns that will be listened to. So it is particularly distressing to hear that this does not ring true for many working in healthcare. For example, as a woman who has worked in medicine throughout my career, I was personally troubled and saddened to read recent accounts of sexist behaviour, sexual harassment and sexual assault suffered by doctors and healthcare professionals at work.

There is no place for this kind of behaviour in our profession. Everyone has the right to expect their colleagues to treat them with respect and to behave within appropriate professional boundaries – and we, as doctors, must speak up and challenge sexism, harassment or any other sexual misconduct if we experience or witness it.

This year, we will be launching our consultation on the review of Good medical practice, which I hope will open up important discussions about our professional behaviours and the way we interact with colleagues and care for our patients.

Equality, diversity and inclusion in healthcare are top priorities in all our work – and conversations about inclusive behaviours, cultures and workplaces will be crucial to that wider Good medical practice consultation. I hope that you will take this notable opportunity to get involved as we require as broad an input as possible to help shape professional and ethical standards for the years ahead. This provides an excellent opportunity for every doctor to influence the issues that are most fundamental to our practice.