What other responsibilities do doctors have?

Standards of behaviour

It’s essential that patients can trust their doctors. To justify your trust in them and their profession, doctors need to act with honesty and integrity. For example by:

  • being honest about their experience, qualifications, and current role
  • being honest in financial and commercial dealings
  • putting the interests of participants first when designing, organising, or carrying out research

Because doctors hold a trusted position in society, it’s important that they think about the power they hold and don’t abuse that trust. For example, they must not:

  • take advantage of your lack of medical knowledge when communicating as a medical professional
  • act in a sexual way or use their professional position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with you or someone close to you
  • talk about their personal beliefs (including political, religious, and moral beliefs) in ways that take advantage of your vulnerability or could reasonably cause you distress
  • abuse, discriminate against, or bully you or another patient.

Maintaining skills and knowledge

It’s important that doctors follow guidance and standards, and work within their competence. And we expect doctors to keep their knowledge and skills up to date throughout their career.

Training the next generation of doctors is a key part of any healthcare system and doctors are expected to share knowledge and skills with colleagues. This could be formally or informally.

Medical students cannot learn all they need to know from books and will, at times, be part of the team. If for any reason you would prefer not to help in medical student training, you have the right to decline.

Conflicts of interest

When a doctor proposes, provides or prescribes treatment, or refers you to another specialty, it’s important that you can trust that your doctor is not putting their own interests before yours.

There are times when a doctor will have interests that could affect the way they provide treatments or refer patients, or the way they communicate as a medical professional. When this happens, doctors need to be open and honest about their interest. And, if faced with a conflict of interest, they may need to exclude themselves from making a decision.

Communicating as a medical professional

Any information doctors communicate as a medical professional – including using social media and advertising or promoting services or products – needs to be accurate, and not false or misleading. This means doctors are expected to:

  • take reasonable steps to check the information is accurate
  • not deliberately leave out relevant information or understate risks of harm
  • not present opinion as established fact.

If you want to know a doctor’s registered name and/or GMC reference number, you can ask them for this information.

In an emergency

In an emergency, like a car accident, doctors are often in a good position to help. But what help they offer will depend on their skills and any other options that are available. For example, if the doctor isn’t competent in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), they may instead call an ambulance.