GMC guidance change is labelled ‘confusing’

By Robin Stride

Independent practitioners are being exhorted to respond to GMC proposals which a defence body fears could have unintended consequences on doctors’ working lives.

The MDU’s concerns follow the launch of its ‘forensic’ analysis of the Council’s consultation proposing a shake-up of Good Medical Practice, reported by Independent Practitioner Today last month.

Defence experts have voiced strong reservations about the scale and nature of the proposed changes and believe some are unclear and fail to reflect the realities of medical practice.

Dr Caroline Fryar, the MDU’s director of medical services, said: ‘It is really important that all doctors read the consultation and envisage how they can see it working in practice. Ultimately, the guidance must work for doctors and we are keen to hear from members so we can ensure their views are heard.’ 

Asked if she thought some proposals could lead to doctor confusion and result in them getting into trouble with the GMC, she replied: ‘There is a legitimate concern that some of the proposed changes lack clarity. 

‘The guidance is one of the main tools used by the GMC in its fitness-to-practise processes. That’s why it is so important that this guidance – when finalised – is in the best possible shape. Every paragraph and every word of Good Medical Practice matters. That’s why we are being so forensic in our study of this new version’.

Dr Caroline Fryar

Dr Fryar said it would be too confusing and not in the interests of the profession if Good Medical Practice was updated every couple of years. But the MDU was struck by the scale and nature of the proposed changes. ‘Indeed, we feel that some of the proposed changes do not reflect the realities of medical practice.’

She appreciated the GMC had, however, committed to a meaningful consultation with doctors. 

‘The GMC is clearly investing considerable resource in reaching out to the profession and other stakeholders to discuss their proposed changes – and a three-month consultation period is a considerable one. 

‘We believe the GMC will be receptive to constructive, considered and evidenced-based feedback. We always work collaboratively with the GMC to support the best interests of our members, and that’s the spirit in which we are approaching this crucial consultation.’

The draft updated Good Medical Practice runs to 16 pages and provides detailed guidance for doctors covering areas including ‘working with colleagues’, ‘working with patients’, ‘professional capabilities’ and ‘maintaining trust’.

Ethical practice

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey has described Good Medical Practice as the bedrock that helps guide ethical practice in a world of increasingly complex medicine. 

Launching the consultation, he said: ‘This update is designed to reflect the type of fair, inclusive and compassionate workplaces we all want to see and that are good for doctors as well as for patients.

‘There is a lot of evidence of the damage bad workplace cultures can do to patient safety and, ultimately, to the UK’s ability to retain the healthcare professionals it needs. Toxic cultures can also spread online, undermining public trust in the medical profession.

‘It is important our guidance reflects the reality of what doctors face and the cultures many are working in, and that it supports them to be able to do the best for their patients and for their colleagues.

‘We want this guidance to be relevant and helpful now and for years ahead and, to achieve that, we need to hear from those who will use it. That is what this consultation is all about.’

GMC guidance ‘must reflect doctors’ lives’

Dr Fryar, writing in our features section this month, notes many comments have been made about some of the new additions to Good Medical Practice – from displaying ‘kindness’ to obligations not to condone certain behaviour on social media and to have regard for global health when taking account of the resources available to treat patients. 

She argues: ‘Kindness, tackling abuse on social media, climate change – all of these issues matter profoundly and are of the utmost importance. However, Good Medical Practice is not a manifesto outlining the aspirations for the healthcare system – it is the principal document by which doctors and their registration with the GMC is held to account.

‘Hence, the duties and responsibilities it places on the profession must reflect the realities of the healthcare system and the individual doctors within it. The guidance must be accessible, understandable and achievable for doctors.’

The GMC’s consultation on the draft updated Good Medical Practice runs until Wednesday 20 July. Find out more, including how to get involved, via this link.

MDU members are being encouraged to share their views by contacting at