Medicine Interview Hot Topics: GMC
The General Medical Council works ‘to protect patient safety and support medical education and practice across the UK.’ They subdivide their purpose into five key areas, as set out by the Medical Act 1983.
Firstly, they manage the UK Medical register of more than 300,000 doctors. This involves checking identities and qualifications, along with contacting employers to ensure that the doctor will practise safely.
Secondly, the GMC sets standards for doctors. They set out the values, knowledge, skills and behaviours required of all doctors working in the UK. To do this, they consult with a broad range of people, including patients, employers and educators.
Thirdly, the GMC oversees medical education and training across the UK. That means setting standards that each university must hit, and monitoring training at universities. There is a general push towards as homogenised a course, and outcomes, as possible.
Fourthly, the GMC manages a process called revalidation. This is the system through which each licensed doctor in the UK keeps their knowledge and skills up to date. Each doctor has an annual appraisal, and every five years a senior doctor will correlate their junior's appraisals and tell the GMC if the doctor is keeping up with the standards expected of them.
The last part of the GMC’s remit is to ‘investigate and act on concerns about doctors.’ If a serious concern is raised about a certain doctor, the GMC must decide whether it will investigate it. If the doctor has put patient safety at risk, or endangered the public’s confidence in doctors, then they will likely investigate. After the investigation, a range of outcomes may come into play, from a warning or advice through to retraining or restricted practice. In the most serious situations the GMC will refer the case to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service which may seek to remove the doctor from the register entirely.
History of the GMC
The GMC was formed in 1858 under the Medical Act. Prior to its formation there were 19 separate bodies regulating doctors in the UK, all with different examinations and tests. At this time, a doctor in one part of the UK at this time might not have been seen as qualified elsewhere, creating an urgent need for a national body. The GMC was founded as the General Council of Medical Education and Registration of the United Kingdom, charged with registering doctors across the UK, leading medical education, and publishing a pharmacopoeia. The council would remove its first unqualified doctor in 1860, and hold its first hearing for a conviction in 1899, over a drunk doctor.
The council received its first female member in 1933, and by 2003 had radically altered the form of its council to 40% lay people, 60% doctors. It now stands at 50-50. At the turn of the millennium the GMC, criticised for not having struck off doctors like Harold Shipman, changed its focus from self-regulation to professional regulation. This would mean that the GMC would cover all stages of medical education and practice, with one central set of standards that would be the basis for a process of periodic revalidation. Revalidation began in 2012.
Now the GMC continues its work with a renewed focus on supportive frameworks for doctors rather than more punitive ‘fitness to practice’ procedures.
Potential questions which may be asked in your interview
- What is the role of the General Medical Council in the UK?
- What do you know about the history of the GMC?
- What is the name of the body in the UK responsible for setting standards for doctors?
- Is the GMC’s primary loyalty to doctors or patients?
- Do you think that it’s a positive that the GMC oversees all medical education?
- What do you think the disciplinary process is for a doctor that has acted unprofessionally?
- What is the guidance that the GMC produces for its doctors called?
- Why do you think that the GMC has made a considerable effort to change the makeup of its council from doctors to a mixture of laypeople and doctors?
- What major incidents can you think of in the UK that would have caused the GMC to tighten their regulations and oversight?
How to answer questions on the GMC
Questions on the GMC are likely to focus on professionalism, guidance and how to manage doctors so that patients’ best interests are protected. Make sure you have a good overview of the GMC’s history and its role today, and frame any answers that you give in a way that puts patients first, whilst showing empathy to doctors and the difficulties inherent in their job.