The state of medical education and practice in the UK report: 2016

We introduce the report by highlighting the state of unease within the medical profession across the UK as a result of increased pressures on health and social care services.   

We point out the growing pressure on doctors and a ‘dangerous level of alienation’ among doctors in training, and say we have a role to play in addressing these issues by making regulation ‘as light touch as possible’ and by continuing to work with others to reform the way doctors’ education and training is organised. Read the full overview (pdf).


>> the full report (pdf)

>> the executive summary (pdf)

>> crynodeb gweithredol – Welsh version (pdf)


Chapter one: Our data on doctors working in the UK

Chapter one provides an overview of the UK medical register in 2015. We consider how the make-up of the medical workforce continues to change in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. The profession is becoming more ethnically diverse and the proportion of female doctors is edging closer to making up 50% of the register.

We examine how the profiles of particular specialties have changed since 2011 – some are growing while others are shrinking, and some have a greater reliance on older doctors and non-UK graduates.

>> Read chapter one (pdf)

Chapter two: Our data on medical students and doctors training in the UK

This chapter presents data on medical students and doctors in training in the UK. We examine how the population of doctors in medical education has changed between 2012 and 2015, with a particular focus on gender, ethnicity and numbers of doctors in individual specialty training programmes.

While there was a 22% increase in emergency medicine trainees (in specialty training stages four to six) in that time and a 2% increase in GP trainees, both obstetrics and gynaecology and psychiatry have seen a 10% reduction in trainee numbers.

>> Read chapter two (pdf)

Chapter three: Complaints about doctors

We examine the number of complaints that we received in 2015 and how these complaints were resolved. In 2015 the number of complaints fell to 8,269 – a 7% reduction on 2014 – and we closed two-thirds of complaints immediately.

We also reduced the number of investigations by 18% as a direct result of our work to speed up our fitness to practise procedures to reduce their impact on doctors and patients.

>> Read chapter three (pdf)

Chapter four: Groups of doctors at higher risk of complaints and investigations

While only a relatively small number of doctors receive complaints each year – 3% of doctors were the subject of a complaint in 2015 – we know some groups of doctors are at higher risk of complaints and investigations from particular sources and about particular allegations.

Our data in this chapter tells us that employers are more likely than the public to make complaints about BME doctors and non-UK graduates; whereas complaints about clinical competence account for nearly a third of investigations arising from public complaints but less than one in ten of those made by employers.

>> Read chapter four (pdf)

Chapter five: Regional differences in the types of doctors

In this chapter we look at how the workforce of GPs and specialists, and doctors who are neither, varies between different parts of the UK and regions in England.

We look at the number of doctors per person in each area, as well as their age profile and diversity. For example Scotland and Northern Ireland have both reached gender parity, with female doctors making up 51% and 50% of all licensed doctors in those countries respectively.

By contrast, 46% of licensed doctors in England and 44% in Wales are female.

>> Read chapter five (pdf)

Chapter six: The future of healthcare regulation in the UK

This chapter discusses the future of healthcare regulation in the UK. Traditionally regulators have been associated largely with taking action against professionals who fall below expected standards.

However the reality is that the vast majority of professionals will never do this. Regulation must be relevant to their practice and not an unnecessary burden.

We conclude that we must direct our resources to support good practice; and, where we can, mitigate the risks of harm occurring by understanding and using data to target our regulatory interventions effectively and fairly.

>> Read chapter six (pdf)

Reference tables

These tables comprehensively cover GMC data relating to the register, medical education and fitness to practise for each year from 2011 to 2015. They provide the source information used to develop many parts of this year’s report.

Register of medical practitioners

Register of medical practitioners, by country and region

Medical students and doctors in training

Fitness to practise