Good doctors

Medical professionalism matters

Exploring the real life challenges experienced by today’s medical professionals and providing support that doctors want and need


Medical professionalism matters: what you told us

Medical professionalism matters focused on having open and honest discussion and debate about the very real challenges that so many doctors are facing today.

This report gives an insight into the result of these discussions. It is not intended to be a detailed account of everything that was said – rather it provides a summary of the main points that came through in the discussions. While these views may not be shared across the entire profession, they do represent the participants’ feelings. You should also note that participants at these events came from different parts of the UK and therefore were contributing to the discussion based on their experience of the local system. We recognise the health service operates differently across the UK, but the feedback was generally consistent regardless of local variations.

This report also presents the results of surveys of more than 1,000 doctors and other professionals on a range of topics. What emerges is thought provoking – and sometimes disturbing.

The GMC, in collaboration with partners from across the healthcare sector, decided to launch Medical professionalism matters in early 2015 because of growing concerns within the medical profession about doctors’ role in a modern health service. Although the values underpinning professionalism may remain constant, the context in which those values are played out is always changing. Many doctors feel the current environment is the most challenging of their careers.

That relates not only to the pressures of day-to-day practice, but also to increased patient expectations and the often conflicting demands of employer and patients. And this has to be set against the backdrop of almost unprecedented upheaval in the NHS in England, with major reforms coinciding with one of the severest financial squeezes in its history. The long-running contract dispute in England can be seen as symptomatic of these growing concerns.

Some may be surprised to see a national regulator of professional standards organising this programme of events. But we see it as central to one of our core educational functions – building greater understanding of, and working relationships with, frontline doctors and patients. Now more than ever, all of us involved in Medical professionalism matters need to be proactively identifying potential issues and helping to share notable practice.

This has been an invaluable learning experience for everyone involved in this project.

The report’s central focus is on the medical profession – a profession in a state of unease. However, many of the themes raised – including issues of teamwork, patient partnership and the tension between professional and organisational loyalties – will be equally relevant to health and social care professionals more widely.

The process of holding this extended conversation with many doctors has been of enormous value in itself. But we need to take it further. This is an ambitious project with an ambitious goal: we want it to help drive changes at both local and national level. In the same way that doctors spoke of their own ‘lifelong journey’ on professionalism, this will also be a journey for those organisations working to support doctors in an increasingly challenging health and care environment.

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Medical professionalism matters programme developed in partnership with: