Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

The future of the GMC: an interview with Donald Irvine, the new president

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 10 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1515
  1. Richard Smith, editora
  1. a BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

    Donald Irvine is the first general practitioner to be elected president of the General Medical Council (GMC). Richard Smith spoke to him half an hour after he completed his last ever surgery at his practice in Ashington, Northumberland.

    RS: What are the key problems facing the GMC at the moment?

    DI: The first is getting its image and its relationship right with the outside world. It must be seen to be interested in good practice and to be connecting with patients' concerns. It shouldn't be seen just as a punitive body that does or doesn't work depending on your point of view.

    RS: Is it seen largely as a punitive body?

    DI: Many doctors don't know what the GMC actually does. It's just something in London to be avoided at all costs.

    The importance of “Good Medical Practice”

    RS: Do you think that you might change that?

    DI: The council has been tending to emphasise the positive side of practice in the past few years. This changing attitude led to the standards committee producing Good Medical Practice, which was approved by the council last week.1 It's a major reorientation. [Good Medical Practice lays down the essential skills, behaviours, and attitudes that constitute good practice. Sir Donald, as chairman of the standards committee of the GMC, played a central part in its creation.]

    RS: Because it's positive rather than just negative?

    DI: It's more than that. It makes explicit the link with registration, which gives doctors privileges and benefits, including the right to earn their living as doctors. But it's also a privilege to be associated with a profession that is held in such high esteem by the British public. In many parts of the world the grasping image of doctors has taken over from the caring image.

    The flipside …

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