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Explore the recent updates in GMC’s Good Medical Practice guidance and understand how they impact your role as a practice manager

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on GP Online

The General Medical Council (GMC) plays a pivotal role in shaping the standards expected of practice managers and GPs. They provide the foundation for ethical decision-making, guiding your daily practice and influencing fitness to practise evaluations.

In August, the GMC unveiled its first major update to the Good Medical Practice (GMP) guidance in a decade, set to come into force on 30th January 2024. These changes will impact all doctors, making it crucial for you to stay informed about what lies ahead. In a recent survey conducted by the Medical Defence Organisation (MDU), 96% of doctors reported having referred to this guidance at some point in their careers.

The new guidance introduces substantial changes, making it essential to acquaint yourself with the updated content. The MDU has called for doctors to receive dedicated time to familiarise themselves with these adjustments, recognising their significance.

Understanding the content of this 28-page edition and how it applies to your practice will help ensure you meet GMC expectations. Here, we provide answers to key questions about the areas relevant to GPs.

Key updates to the guidance

The updated Good Medical Practice (GMP) guidance is designed to promote respectful, fair, and compassionate workplaces for both colleagues and patients. It aims to champion patient-centred care, tackle discrimination, and advocate for fair and inclusive leadership. The guidance also focuses on supporting continuity of care and safe delegation, addressing the evolving landscape of medical practice, including remote consulting.

Importantly, it provides comprehensive guidance on communication skills, emphasising the importance of treating patients with kindness, courtesy, and respect. For the first time, it includes guidance on how doctors should respond when witnessing sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination, highlighting the importance of a positive working and training environment.

Using the guidance in fitness to practise investigations

It’s important to note that GMP isn’t a rigid set of rules. While the previous version indicated that only a serious or persistent failure to follow GMC guidance would jeopardise a doctor’s registration, the 2024 guidance offers a more nuanced perspective.

The GMC will consider several factors when assessing the risk posed by a doctor. These factors include the extent of any departure from professional standards, whether the deviation was premeditated or persistent, or if it involved an abuse of power. Additionally, the GMC will take into account mitigating factors such as your response to the concern and any remedial actions taken.

Exploring the four new domains

The updated guidance introduces four key domains:

  1. Knowledge, skills, and development: This domain focuses on maintaining your professional knowledge, skills, and performance, emphasising competence in all aspects of your work, including formal leadership or management roles. It underscores the importance of engaging in quality assurance and quality improvement systems, responding constructively to their outcomes.
  2. Patients, partnership, and communication: This section delves into your professional relationship with patients, highlighting the need to work in partnership with them. It addresses obtaining patient consent, discussing material risks of treatment options, and treating patients fairly with kindness and respect.
  3. Colleagues, culture, and safety: This domain extends advice on effective teamwork and workplace culture. It also discusses reporting abuse, discrimination, bullying, or harassment, particularly for those in formal leadership roles.
  4. Trust and professionalism: This domain covers maintaining trust, integrity, and avoiding conflicts of interest. It introduces guidance on professional communication, including the use of social media.

Your next steps

The updated Good Medical Practice guidance revolves around principles and conduct that support teamwork, empower individuals to speak up, and encourage the provision of quality care. Given the pressures practice managers and doctors face, it is essential to familiarise yourself with these changes before they take effect in January 2024.

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