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GMC promises ‘light touch’ after warning about ‘state of unease’ in medical profession

The GMC has used its annual report to highlight a growing pressure on the medical profession, warning about the ‘state of unease’ among doctors, and saying a ‘light touch’ form of regulation is necessary. 

The State of Medical Education and Practice report says doctors in trainingare  feeling a ‘dangerous level of alienation’, particularly following the junior doctors’ contract disputes.

According to the report, GMC needs to respond to this state of unease with as ‘light touch as possible’ in their regulation although they argue that the GMC is ‘constrained by an out-of-date legal process that can only be transformed by legislative reform.’

It does, however, say that the GMC will go beyond its remit to help workforce planning, as well as define what ‘professionalism’ means.

The introduction to the report by GMC chair Professor Terence Stephenson and chief executive Niall Dickson states: ‘There is a state of unease within the medical profession across the UK that risks affecting patients as well as doctors. The reasons for this are complex and multifactorial, and some are longstanding. Yet the signals of distress are unmistakeable.

‘This should not be seen as a counsel of despair but as a message to governments, employers, regulators, and the profession itself. The GMC is concerned because of the impact this might have on the professional standards for which we are responsible.’

They add: ‘There appears to be a general acceptance that the system cannot simply go on as before.’

The report said: ’The goal must be to make regulation as light touch as possible while maximising its impact. Working with other regulators, including those focused on the system such as CQC and Healthcare Improvement Scotland, we should also seek to reduce bureaucratic requirements without losing gains in patient safety.’

They go on to state that the GMC will look to:

  • develop a risk-based model of regulation;
  • revalue doctors in training;
  • engage on what professionalism means;
  • and even support those engaged in workforce planning, which is ‘traditionally’ beyond the remit of regulators of professionals.

Dr Ellen McCourt, BMA junior doctors’ committee chair, said: ’Over the past year, junior doctors across the country have raised concerns about the reality of working in an overstretched health service and the impact that has on their morale and patient care.

’The imposition of the new junior doctor contract has alienated junior doctors; it is vital that the Government works to rebuild trust and show staff across the NHS, who continue to work flat-out to keep the NHS going, that they are valued.’