GMC overhaul risks turning medical register into 'beauty parade', GPs warn

A GMC consultation on changes to the medical register to add details including photographs and the location in which doctors practice could increase stress on the profession, GP leaders have warned.

The regulator said the plans would ‘transform’ the medical register, and help it to become the ‘most advanced, transparent register in the world’.

Depending on the outcome of the consultation, data such as further qualifications, the scope of a doctor’s practice, a declaration of competing professional interests, languages spoken, practice location and photographs ‘to demonstrate identity’ could be added to the register on a voluntary basis.

But the GPC has warned that the changes must not allow the register to pile extra pressure on doctors by becoming a beauty parade or competition to 'have the longest set of qualifications'.

The register currently states a doctor’s GMC number, first and middle names, surname, gender, registration status and the year/location of qualification – this information would remain mandatory.

Doctors could choose to add any extra information to the register ‘to make it more useful to them and their patients’, the GMC said.

The list is freely available to view online, and was searched nearly 7m times in 2015.

Medical register update

The proposed overhaul would trigger significant additions to the information held in the register, which remains largely unchanged since its conception as a hardback book over 150 years ago, the GMC said.

Research by the GMC found that the current register was outdated compared to those in other countries, with registers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand already providing information on a doctor’s qualifications, place of work and languages.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Vautrey warned: ‘The GMC needs to carefully consider the unintended consequences of publishing information that could be taken out of context or be misused.

‘The GMC register shouldn't become a beauty parade or a site to compete against others to have the longest set of qualifications. Keeping some of this information up to date could also place an added workload and stressful burden on doctors at a time many are already under significant pressure.’

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘We need a modern register that is useful, relevant and accessible for doctors, employers and patients.

‘In some ways the current register has changed little from the register of 1859 – but medical practice and patients’ expectations have changed radically and the register now needs to reflect that.

‘It does not provide a complete picture about a doctor’s practice, for example, what other qualifications they may have, where they work or if they now practise in another specialty. In many cases, years of experience and training are not reflected.

‘We very much hope this will be an opportunity for doctors to take joint ownership of their entry on the register to provide a fuller picture of their practice.’

The consultation – consisting of 13 questions – will remain open until 7 October 2016.

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