Coronavirus – GMC writes to doctors who may be asked to help

The General Medical Council (GMC) is contacting doctors who may be granted temporary registration to help deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, outlining the process they would need to follow and informing them of what they should do if they want to opt out.

Under Section 18a of the Medical Act 1983 the Secretary of State for Health can, in an emergency, ask the GMC to automatically grant temporary registration to doctors who are not currently in practice.

As part of its planning and preparation, the regulator is now writing to those doctors with a UK address, who are fully qualified and experienced, of good standing, and who have given up their registration or licence to practise within the last three years. In all around 15,000 doctors will be contacted.

Temporary registration for those doctors would be automatic and would allow them to work if they wanted to.

However, doctors can opt out, for any reason. The GMC would not grant temporary registration to anyone who opts out. Doctors can also change their mind at any time, for example if they decided to opt out initially, and later want to work.

"Temporary registration allows doctors to work in the NHS, but it would be up to each individual whether or not to do so. Doctors can opt out for any reason and they can change their mind at any time."

Una Lane

Director of Registration and Revalidation

Once the Secretary of State requests the GMC to grant temporary registration to this group, contact details for doctors granted that status would be shared with the health services in the UK nation matching their address. Those bodies would then contact these doctors to discuss if, how, where and when they might be asked to work.

Doctors would still be able to opt out at any time. Even if they were granted temporary registration, they would have no obligation to work.

Una Lane, the GMC’s Director of Registration and Revalidation, said:

‘We expect the UK Government to ask us to grant temporary registration to doctors living in the UK who are not currently in practice. We know many will be keen to help, but we also understand that many will have questions and concerns.

‘Temporary registration allows doctors to work in the NHS, but it would be up to each individual whether or not to do so. Doctors can opt out for any reason and they can change their mind at any time.

‘The potential deployment of these doctors, and any questions relating to their pay or pensions, are matters for the NHS and the UK governments.’

Doctors who have temporary registration during the emergency will not be required to pay any registration fee to the GMC, and will not be subject to revalidation – the process by which doctors demonstrate, every five years, that they remain up-to-date and fit to practise.

The GMC has published a web guide to explain more about the temporary registration process. It also provides information from the four UK governments and health services, to help doctors access the information they need about the practicalities of returning to work.

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