The GMC has published an update of Good medical practice, which details the “principles, values and standards” expected of doctors working in the UK. It is the first major update to the guidance in ten years.

Key updates


“The standards focus on behaviours and values which support good team work, make everyone feel safe to speak up, and empower doctors to provide quality care.” – GMC


The areas of particular notice in the updated Good medical practice are updates relating to:

  • creating respectful, fair and compassionate workplaces for colleagues and patients
  • promoting patient centred care
  • tackling discrimination
  • championing fair and inclusive leadership
  • supporting continuity of care and safe delegation.

Sexual harassment of colleagues is covered explicitly for the first time. The guidance says doctors:

“must not act in a sexual way towards colleagues with the effect or purpose of causing offence, embarrassment, humiliation or distress.”

The standards make clear, furthermore, that this includes verbal or written comments and displaying or sharing images, as well as physical contact. This adds to existing guidance that doctors must not act in a sexual way towards patients or use their professional position to ‘pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship’.

For the first time, the guidance also sets out what doctors should do if they witness bullying or harassment.

How the updated standards are structured

Knowledge, skills and development

This domain covers the following topics:

  • Being competent
  • Providing good clinical care
  • Maintaining, developing and improving your performance
  • Managing resources effectively and sustainably

Patients, partnership and communication

This domain covers the following topics:

  • Treating patients fairly and respecting their rights
  • Treating patients with kindness, courtesy and respect
  • Supporting patients to make decisions about treatment and care
  • Sharing information with patients
  • Communicating with those close to a patient
  • Caring for the whole patient
  • Safeguarding children and adults who are at risk of harm
  • Helping in emergencies
  • Making sure patients who pose a risk of harm to others can access appropriate care
  • Being open if things go wrong

Colleagues, culture and safety

This domain covers the following topics:

  • Treating colleagues with kindness, courtesy and respect
  • Contributing to a positive working and training environment
  • Demonstrating leadership behaviours
  • Contributing to continuity of care
  • Delegating safely and appropriately
  • Recording your work clearly, accurately, and legibly
  • Keeping patients safe
  • Responding to safety risks
  • Managing risks posed by your health

Trust and professionalism

This domain covers the following topics:

  • Acting with honesty and integrity
  • Maintaining professional boundaries
  • Communicating as a medical professional
  • Managing conflicts of interest
  • Cooperating with legal and regulatory requirements

Doctors must be aware that the four domains in Good medical practice are all equally important in describing what makes “a good medical professional.”

Familiarisation period for doctors

The updated Good medical practice, which comes into effect at the end of January following a five-month familiarisation period for doctors.

Good Medical Practice – when was the last time you actually read it?

The Good Medical Practice is the key document in which the GMC sets out your ethical duties as a doctor, and it is used as a benchmark in virtually all tribunal decisions.  When listing factors that help to determine the seriousness of sanctions that would be appropriate, the top item on the list is:

“The extent to which the doctor departed from the principles of Good Medical Practice.”

It is important that doctors take the time to read and understand the Good Medical Practice to safeguard their registration.

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Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. Kings View Chambers accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken, or not taken, in relation to this article. You should seek the appropriate legal advice having regard to your own particular circumstances.