Working with AoMRC on ways to develop the medical register

We’re working with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to look at ways to enhance the medical register by recording doctors’ scope of practice. 

The medical register was first published in 1859. It was created to help patients and the public distinguish between qualified and unqualified doctors. Almost 160 years on, it is available online. But the sort of information it contains has changed very little from the 19th century version.

Yet healthcare and the nature of doctors' work have changed beyond recognition. Very little of this is reflected in medical register. In particular, it says nothing about the type of work that doctors actually do – their scope of practice.

Improving transparency of the medical register

Linked to our recent public consultation on the development of the medical register, we're looking at how we can improve the utility and transparency of the medical register by improving the range of information available about doctors’ professional practice.

We also want to address the anomaly that means the medical register contains no information about the practice of around 43,000 doctors who are engaged in some form of specialist practice, but who are not on the GP Register or Specialist Register or in specialist training.

Understanding scope of practice: exploratory work

In 2016, we consulted on some options to improve the range of information on our registers. The result of that consultation showed that there is little support for significantly increasing the range of information available on the registers.

Council – our governing body – took note of that feedback and decided not to proceed with expansion of the register at the time. In particular, we have no intention of publishing any personal data that might jeopardise doctors’ privacy or safety, such as email details, home addresses or telephone numbers.

But we will work to improve the functionality of the register with the information it already contains. We'll will work with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to better understand some of the practical issues that would be involved in collecting and recording information about doctors’ scope of professional practice, if we decide to progress this.

This includes devising a proportionate taxonomy of medical practice that would be meaningful for patients and professionals, and examining how the information might be collected and maintained without imposing additional costs and burdens on hardworking doctors and the wider system.

As the guardians of medical practice in their different specialty fields, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the individual medical royal colleges are ideally placed to help lead this work.

You can read more about the work that we and the AoMRC are looking at in our blog.