The consultation has now closed

The General Medical Council (GMC) regulates doctors across the UK and produces guidance they must follow. Its core guidance is Good medical practice, which shapes how doctors care for us by describing the values and behaviours they must show.

Since the GMC last updated it, in 2013, it’s almost as though we’re living in a different world. Huge changes in how care is organised and provided were already under way before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has accelerated them and brought issues such as health inequalities to the fore. In future the GMC will also be regulating two additional medical professions – physician associates and anaesthesia associates.

For all those reasons, the GMC has been reviewing Good medical practice to make sure it keeps pace with the issues that matter to us as patients and the public, as well as to professionals, now and in the future. And as part of that it wants to know what patients think.

Advisory forum

The GMC set up an advisory forum to help it decide how to develop and consult on the new guidance, as well as the wording of the proposed updates. The forum brought together people with wide-ranging experience. I’m glad to be one of the members with a background in helping to make sure that patient and public voices are heard in health and care decision-making.

The aim is for the updated Good medical practice to support medical professionals to deliver high-quality, person-centred care. It’s vital the guidance is clear, relevant, consistent with the law across the UK and structured in a way that’s easy to use.

The GMC is now consulting on a draft. I know that patient outcomes have been central to much of the thinking that’s gone into it, so it’s really important for Patients Association members, and as many other people as possible, to have their say. Doctors definitely will.

Consulting patients

For the consultation the GMC has created a confidential survey specifically for patients. So please take the chance, between now and when the consultation ends on Wednesday, 20 July, to complete it and say what you think.

The proposed changes focus on four main areas and are set out in the survey. But the key area from a public point of view, is working in partnership with patients – something I know is central to the Patients Association’s work. The new draft emphasises the responsibility of medical professionals to help patients make decisions for ourselves. This includes a new duty to find out what matters to us, so this can guide discussions about our care and treatment options.

Patients are individuals

The GMC’s draft aims to recognise that patients are individuals with diverse needs, and that we often have complicated relationships with lots of health professionals and teams in different organisations. The draft guidance also acknowledges our right to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be involved in decisions about our care.

But what the GMC thinks the new guidance will mean for patients isn’t the most important thing. What matters is whether you think it makes sense and will help the GMC work with doctors to improve the care we all receive in the future. So please don’t be shy about letting them know.

Your views will inform the next stages of work on the guidance throughout 2022, before it’s published and comes into effect in 2023. To take part in the GMC’s consultation visit the website.

About the author

Neil Tester is deputy chair of the GMC’s Good medical practice advisory forum and is a board member of his local Healthwatch. He was formerly Director of The Richmond Group of Charities and Deputy Director of Healthwatch England. He tweets as @NTtweeting.