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GMC launches new guidance for patients on what to expect from their doctor

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f2626 (Published 23 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2626
  1. Helen Jaques
  1. 1BMJ Careers

The UK General Medical Council has published guidance for patients on what to expect from their interactions with doctors and the standards of professionalism that doctors should display.

The guidance emphasises the level of respect and dignity that patients should expect of their doctor and how doctors should work in partnership with patients (www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/patients.asp). It also aims to “demystify” the healthcare process for patients by providing advice on what should happen in a consultation and how patients can obtain the most from their time with doctors.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said that the council had produced guidance for doctors for many years. “But we also think it’s important to explain to patients what they can expect from their doctor and what to do if they have concerns,” he said. “What we hope is that [this new guidance] will prove useful for patients and help foster stronger relationships between doctors and patients based on a clear understanding of their respective responsibilities.”

The guidance for patients is based on advice in the GMC’s Good Medical Practice, the latest edition of which came into force this week. It outlines doctors’ responsibilities to provide good care, use resources responsibly, put patients’ safety first, and make sure that the care they provide is safe and effective. It also spells out that doctors should be polite and considerate to patients and emphasises that patients should show the same respect to their doctors.

The GMC said that patients should use the guidance constructively and not “to hit doctors over the head” with it. “The document is not written to encourage people to become aggressive and raise lots of complaints,” said Dickson.

The GMC does not expect an increase in the number of complaints as a result of the new guidance, although it concedes that complaints against doctors have been rising year on year as patients’ expectations have risen and more patients have access to the internet.

“What we’ve always been clear about is that we see no evidence that the increase in the complaints that we’re receiving is the result of deterioration in medical standards. We do not think that is the case,” Dickson said.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2626