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Updated Good Medical Practice 2024 – What does it mean for doctors?

Following a consultation involving thousands of doctors, patients and others working in healthcare, the updated version of the General Medical Council’s (GMC) ‘Good medical practice’ (GMP) came into effect on 30 January 2024.

Most doctors regularly refer to the GMC guidance, however, much has changed since the standards were last reviewed in 2019. Doctors are now facing different challenges in their professional practice, and these, are reflected in the new standards. The updated Good medical practice also includes a detailed explanation about how the standards relate to fitness to practise procedures.

Five key updates

The standards focus on behaviours and values which support good teamwork, provide quality care, and enable them to speak up. All doctors practising in the UK should familiarise themselves with the changes. Many of the standards remain similar or refer to other GMC guidance that doctors will already be familiar with, including the following:

  • create respectful, fair and compassionate workplaces for colleagues and patients;
  • promote patient centred care;
  • tackle discrimination;
  • champion fair and inclusive leadership; and
  • support continuity of care and safe delegation.

The four domains that make up the updated GMP have been renamed and outline the standards expected. The GMC stresses that GMP is not a set of rules however, if concerns are raised about a doctor, they will consider the extent of any departure from professional standards when assessing the risk posed by that doctor.

The four domains and key changes are:

1. Knowledge, skills, and development

This section focuses on how doctors can maintain their professional knowledge, skills, and performance. In order to keep up to date doctors are required to take part in systems of quality assurance and quality improvement such as regular reviews and audits. There is an expectation that they will respond positively to the outcomes of such reviews which may include altering their practice or implementing/updating relevant practice policies.

This section also echoes the GMC guidance on remote consultations and the need to offer an alternative if it is not possible to provide safe and effective care through a particular mode of consultation.

New in this section, is a focus on managing resources effectively and sustainably. It encourages doctors to choose sustainable solutions when they are able and to make good use of resources, provided this does not compromise standards of care. This development reflects the current societal trend to reduce our impact on the environment.

2. Patients, partnership, and communication

This section looks at the professional relationship with patients and how to work in partnership with them. There is a new focus on treating patients fairly, with kindness, courtesy, and respect, emphasising the significance of communication skills.

Obtaining patient consent is discussed in this section, and following the Montgomery judgement of 2015, it includes the duty to discuss the material risks of treatment options with patients and support them to make an informed decision. More detail on this is given in the GMC Decision making and consent guide.

Caring for the patient ‘as a whole’ is also discussed, including asking about other treatment and considering the overall impact of the patient’s treatments and whether the benefits outweigh any risk of harm. The GMC also reiterates the responsibilities of the professional duty of candour and makes the important distinction that ‘apologising does not, of itself, mean that you are admitting legal liability for what has happened’. However, if you are unsure or concerned about what you should say, PMP policyholders can seek support and guidance via the 24/7 medicolegal helpline, which is an added benefit to all PMP policies.

3. Colleagues, culture, and safety

This is a new section that includes advice on effective teamwork, workplace culture, handovers and continuity of care.

The GMC gives examples of how doctors can contribute to a positive working and training environment by showing respect for, and sensitivity towards others’ life experiences, cultures, and beliefs. It also specifies the steps they consider doctors should take if they witness abuse, discrimination, bullying, or harassment. It further advises, that if a doctor witnesses any such behaviour and fails to take steps, the GMC may consider that the doctor has breached their professional obligations.

This section also includes new guidance on what constitutes sexual harassment. GMP says that doctors must not act in a sexual way towards colleagues with the effect or purpose of causing offence, embarrassment, humiliation, or distress. This includes verbal or written comments, physical contact and displaying or sharing images.

There is also a new focus on leadership. GMP stipulates that doctors must ensure that all colleagues whose work they oversee are appropriately supervised. It includes guidance on providing references, conducting appraisals and assessing colleagues.

4. Trust and professionalism

The fourth domain replaces the current guidance on maintaining trust with similar guidance. There is also welcome new guidance for medical professionals on communicating on social media and instant messaging. With regard to advertising, promotion, and endorsement it states that doctors must declare any conflicts of interest and must not exploit people’s vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge.

In addition, while doctors have always been expected to ensure they have adequate and appropriate indemnity/insurance, the new GMP goes further by stating this must cover the full scope of practice and the level of cover should be kept under regular review.

If you have any questions regarding your medical indemnity call PMP on 0345 163 0053 or email us.

This article has been prepared by Premium Medical Protection Limited for information purposes only. To read the GMC’s ‘Good medical practice’ in full, please follow the link below.

Get to know Good medical practice 2024 – GMC

Information correct at time of publication February 2024

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