GMC issues draft licence to practise guidance

Licensing - New rules, due to come into force next year, mean doctors will need a GMC licence in order to practise.

The GMC has published draft guidance for doctors on the licence to practise, due to come into force in late summer 2009.

After 'Licence to Practise (LtP) Day', when the measure takes effect, no doctor will be allowed to practise without a licence from the GMC.

The GMC has yet to set the date, but LtP Day is expected in late summer or autumn 2009.

Under the draft guidance, all doctors working privately or in the NHS will need a licence, as will doctors who issue prescriptions or sign death certificates. All newly-qualified doctors will also have to be licensed. The new arrangements introduce a new category of doctor: unlicensed but on the medical register.

After LtP Day, doctors who pass themselves off as licensed will be committing a criminal offence and face a fine. Employers may expect employees to hold a licence even where there is no legal requirement, such as if a doctor writes medico-legal reports.

GPs involved in 'grey areas', such as teaching, medical management and medical journalism, where there is no legal or contractual obligation to hold a licence, may still opt for one.

But any doctor who is licensed must take part in revalidation and stay in touch with a GMC responsible officer.

Doctors who can choose to join the new category - on the register but unlicensed - include GPs on a career break or long-term sick leave, anyone working abroad who needs to stay on the register to meet local regulator requirements and retired GPs. But new doctors and anyone erased or suspended under fitness-to-practise procedures must apply.

'You will not be able to apply for registration only,' the guidance stipulates. Registered doctors without a licence will pay a lower annual retention fee.

A public consultation on the guidance is expected between January and March 2009.

Licensing will become law following the introduction of the Medical Profession (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2008, due in January.

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