In December we held our conference looking at medical professionalism in the UK. Paul Buckley,  the GMC’s  Director of Strategy and Communications, looks back at some of the highlights.

The past 12 months have pushed medical professionalism and what it means to be a good doctor into the spotlight. Conversations about healthcare were dominated by the implications of Francis and Berwick and the serious questions raised about culture in the medical profession.

Our recent conference in Manchester was an opportunity to explore these questions, to consider what medical professionalism means and ask who is responsible for it.

To be an effective regulator we must engage with doctors and others and work ever more collaboratively. Medical professionalism is a shared responsibility, and dialogue, such as took place in every corner of our conference, is a fundamental part of that. The challenge for us as a regulator is to make the link between our guidance and day-to-day practice, from the words on the page to the actions in the clinics, wards and surgeries – and all the other settings in which doctors are practising – across the country. Only then will we fulfil our mission to protect patients and support doctors in providing good practice.

Openness

For me, the BBC’s medical correspondent, Fergus Walsh, who chaired our conference, got it spot on: a culture of openness is no longer an optional extra. And that was certainly the spirit in which delegates engaged with us and each other.

From medical students debating the challenges around raising concerns to discussions about the rise in complaints about doctors, what was clear was a desire to question and challenge the status quo in order to create better ways of working – and, in doing so, better outcomes for patients and doctors alike.

And that challenge came not only from inside the hall, but from doctors across the UK. For the first time, thanks to our social media channels, we were able to take questions from people following our conference online, broadening the debate yet further.

The conference gave those who attended – and the GMC – a chance to reflect on a difficult year, and the challenges still to come. For me, it was also an opportunity to think about how much the GMC has changed in recent years.

We understand that our responsibility for medical professionalism is shared by individuals and organisations. We are more collaborative in our approach and more confident in our direction of travel. There are undoubtedly further challenges ahead, but the GMC’s mission – to protect the health and safety of the public by ensuring proper standards in the practice of medicine – remains true.