GPs to receive specialist status under plans to reform medical registration

GPs are set to be included on the specialist register under sweeping government plans to reform professional regulation.

GPs will be included on specialist register under reforms (Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

A consultation document published on 24 March revealed that the government is proposing to replace the specialist and GP registers with a single register.

Specialist status, including being a GP, will be reflected through ‘an annotation to the register’, according to the document.

The proposal is part of a number of recommendations that also include speeding up fitness to practise decisions and stripping the GMC of its power of appeal.

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Government sets out plan to speed up fitness to practise cases and halt GMC appeals

The GMC has told GPonline that the proposals, if approved, could be passed in legislation by Spring 2022 - but that it will hold its own consultation before these reforms are introduced. 

Plans to merge the specialist and GP registers follows several years of campaigning from the BMA and RCGP. Both organisations have argued that the move would give GPs equal status to consultants, would make clinicians’ expertise clearer and simplify the register.

Specialist register

At present, GPs are not recognised as specialists in the UK once they have qualified, despite the fact that they are required to complete a minimum of three years specialty training, and despite most European countries recognising general practice as a specialist medical role.

The BMA and RCGP have said that giving GPs specialist status could help encourage junior doctors and medical students to consider a career in general practice.

As part of the change the government is also proposing to remove the GMC’s duty to award the Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) from the Medical Act.

The consultation document said: ‘We propose that the GMC should instead have a power to make rules setting out the procedure to be followed in relation to, and evidence required in support of, CCTs.

Regulation reform

'The GMC will then be able to assure that the processes by which doctors have specialist or GP qualifications annotated on the register are best suited to serve the needs of service users, the public, the healthcare environment and the regulated professions.'

Under the plans the GMC would still be able to award CCTs, but it could also decide to change its processes so that the certificates were no longer required before a qualification was annotated on register.

The document said the change would ‘not entail immediate change’, but would ensure that the GMC ‘has the flexibility to regulate education and training efficiently and effectively'.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks and closes on 16 June.

GPs can respond to the consultation here.

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