Proposed timetable and costs for GMC’s plan to approve medical trainers raise concerns

Authors: Caroline White 

Publication date:  01 Aug 2012

The General Medical Council’s plan to boost the profile and standards of doctors’ trainers have met with approval overall. But respondents to its consultation have raised concerns over the proposed timetable for implementation and the potential cost implications.

The GMC’s proposals include setting minimum standards for trainers, formal recognition of four training roles across undergraduate and postgraduate education, and an annual survey of trainers.

The responses to the GMC’s plan to approve trainers for medical training from next year, which were set out in Recognising and Approving Trainers in January (the GMC aims to approve medical trainers from 11 January 2013),[1] indicated majority support for most of the proposals.[2]

Most (79%) of the 270 respondents agreed with the GMC’s objectives, and around eight in 10 agreed that local providers of education, such as hospitals and general practices, should map out their procedures for identifying, training, and appraising trainers against the criteria of the Academy of Medical Educators.

But views on whether the plans would actually enhance the value of training were more mixed.

Around two thirds of respondents (69%) believed that the existing standards for trainers were appropriate; and while over half (61%) agreed that the GMC’s plans would give training a boost, around a third (30%) were uncertain, and almost one in 10 (8%) disagreed.

Backing for formal recognition of trainers was also somewhat muted, with just over half (57%) agreeing that named educational and clinical supervisors in postgraduate training should be formally recognised and 63% agreeing with the choices for undergraduate education: lead coordinators at hospitals and general practices, and the doctors responsible for overseeing students’ educational progress at each medical school.

And only a third (31%) of respondents believed that the GMC’s proposed timetable for implementation, to coincide with the start of the academic year 2013-14, was achievable. A similar proportion (29%) believed that it was not realistic, while a further one in five (18%) were unsure.

Respondents raised concerns that the quality of training would suffer under the plans and that most organisations had their hands full with revalidation and structural reorganisation, in the wake of the Health and Social Care Act. The medical royal colleges, in particular, wanted a phased approach.

But the GMC has said that it does not envisage full compliance within the first year and has suggested an interim system of “provisional recognition” for trainers requiring more training until July 2016—the deadline for full compliance.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) were unsure whether the costs of implementation would outweigh the benefits.

NHS Employers welcomed the move to adopt consistent standards for trainers and believed that it would help boost recruitment. But it warned that no additional funds were available to support an approvals process.

In its submission to the consultation it said that mapping the identification and training of trainers against the academy’s seven criteria would be very time consuming and that this would have to be recognised in job plans.

The BMA also supported the plan to raise minimum standards and the recognition of the role of medical education in the care of patients. But it highlighted what it termed “three significant risks.”

It said, “These additional requirements may disincentivise some doctors from taking on the role of a trainer; employers may not provide the necessary resources; [and] employers [may] decide to withdraw from the provision of education and training because of the increased burden of the activities.”

Women doctors, in particular, might be put off by the additional time and commitment required, it suggested.


  1. Jaques H. GMC aims to approve medical trainers from 2013. BMJ Careers  11 Jan 2012. [Link] .
  2. GMC. Report on outcome of consultation on approval of trainers. [Link] .

Caroline White BMJ

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: