As chief executive of the GMC, this year Niall Dickson will be responsible for bringing in the biggest shake up in the regulation of doctors in more than 150 years.
The GMC declared itself ready for revalidation in July, although whether the NHS itself will be ready is open for debate. But Mr Dickson will still have his work cut out for him in proving to the profession that it is anything more than a mere paper-shifting exercise.
He says: ‘I’m not saying everyone is dancing for joy, but we are in a position where there is a change in mood, we’re seeing genuine engagement and we are really making sure this process adds value. If we get it right, we’ll strengthen the profession.’
This year has also seen the Government shrink the size of the GMC and set up a new medical tribunal service to handle fitness-to-practise hearings, as well as one of the most controversial GMC hearings in recent years, with a Christian GP given a formal warning over discussing religion with a patient.
Responsible officers were brought in to plug what Mr Dickson calls the ‘gaping hole in our regulatory system’ by being given the power to carry out language checks foreign doctors who work in the UK – although this might be undermined by plans for a national performers list.
The GMC was also embroiled in a row of the use of off-label and unlicensed medicines by doctors. It is still conducting a review of its legality, but the results could have real clinical implications for GPs.
Mr Dickson says one of the challenges of the next year will be ensuring young doctors are given the right levels of supervision, following a GMC survey that found that one in seven trainees feel they were given tasks beyond their competency.