High workload is putting doctors’ professionalism at risk, says GMC

Authors: Tom Moberly 

Publication date:  26 Jan 2017

Doctors’ professionalism is being put at risk by the current pressures on the health service, the chair of the General Medical Council has warned, and he urges doctors to speak out over patient safety concerns.

In his annual message to UK doctors, Terence Stephenson said that doctors were being forced to make difficult decisions about care and losing out on training opportunities because of the pressures on the health service.

“The GMC has no role in the funding or delivery of healthcare, but we have voiced our concern about the current situation,” Stephenson said. “Such circumstances place the professionalism of doctors at risk, forcing you to make difficult decisions about care and squeezing the already constrained time you have for training and development.”

Stephenson said that the GMC would act where it found that doctors’ training was being undermined by pressures on services. “The standards we set for doctors’ education, training, and support must be met—in good times and bad—and we will engage with employers who do not meet them,” he said. “We expect those responsible for running services to listen and respond to what you tell them. If you have concerns about the safety of your patients, I urge you to raise them.”

He said that health services across the UK were “working harder than ever” to deal with winter pressures. “This challenges our ability to provide the high standard of care we want for our patients,” he said. “It’s in these moments—when our skills, compassion, and endurance are tested to the limits—that I feel huge pride to be a member of this profession.”

He added, “Every week I see colleagues go above and beyond what is expected of them for their patients. There will no doubt be more challenges ahead. However, I want to thank you personally for your ongoing commitment and professionalism.”

The Association of Surgeons in Training and the Royal College of Surgeons warned last week that surgeons were missing vital opportunities for training because of the current winter crisis in the NHS.[1] Earlier this month the GMC said that doctors must continue to highlight risks to the safety of patients as pressure on services mounted and that health service managers must respond to these concerns.[2]


  1. Rimmer A. Winter pressure leaves surgeons short of training opportunities. BMJ Careers 23 Jan 2017. [Link] .
  2. Moberly T. Managers must respond to doctors’ patient safety concerns, GMC says. BMJ Careers 11 Jan 2017. [Link] .

Tom Moberly BMJ Careers


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