Doctors practising in the UK will be familiar with the General Medical Council’s (GMC) guidance that they must adhere to, but knowing how it can be applied to everyday practice can sometimes be a challenge.

The GMC’s Regional Liaison Service tailors workshops, known as Duties of a doctor to the needs of individual organisations. The programmes, which typically involve up to six sessions, focus on different ethical subjects to help doctors get the most from the guidance and are unique to the trust. Duties of a doctor sessions can be created for any level of doctor from doctors in training to consultants.

Ian Wilson, a Regional Liaison Adviser for the GMC, tells us about how the different workshops he has held for doctors at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have benefited doctors’ practice.

About the workshops

I spent more than 30 years as a police officer before finishing that part of my career as a Detective Chief Superintendent. Three years ago I joined the GMC’s Regional Liaison Service (RLS) and there are similarities with my former career. As a police officer I saw my role as essentially making communities safer places, and my role in the RLS is very similar. The opportunity to work with doctors and other influential groups is really about making communities better and safer places in which to live. I find that to be really motivating and rewarding.

I have been fortunate to run two pilots of the GMC’s interactive Duties of a doctor programme at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the biggest trust in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Senior management at Leeds have really supported the programme and have seen its value in enhancing their doctors’ clinical practice.

The sessions I have held have been specifically for consultant grade doctors, which was a request from the Trust. All the consultants who attended did so voluntarily, and sessions are enhanced by the presence of a senior doctor from the trust to provide support and advice within a local context.

However, towards the end of last year I started a new workshop in Leeds aimed at a much wider group of doctors. The focus is on applying a range of our guidance to a variety of case studies that are pertinent to the group’s requirements.

The Duties of a doctor sessions use interactive techniques to bring the subject areas to life and show how our guidance applies to a range of practical scenarios and case studies. All the Regional Liaison Advisors, including me, use learning logs to help the doctor to reflect on their learning and support their continuous development. These can later be used by the doctors as part of their appraisal processes.

Each workshop for the consultant groups at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust focused on a different ethical subject to help the attendees understand how to apply our guidance in their day to day clinical practice. The topics covered in the sessions were tailored to the needs of the doctors following conversations with the trust. These included what to do when a patient discloses they have been a victim of domestic violence and how to apply the guidance to this tricky ethical situation. We also covered the law and ethics regarding prescribing contraception to a 15-year-old girl.

The sessions I ran at Leeds also included areas of guidance such as:

  • End of life care
  • Personal beliefs and professional boundaries
  • Raising concerns and duty of candour
  • Consent
  • Confidentiality
  • Leadership and management

The history of Duties of a Doctor

Since we launched the workshops in 2015 they have been attended by hundreds of doctors across the UK.

The first Duties of a Doctors programme started at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust. It was designed to support overseas doctors new to UK practice. The Trust identified that some doctors were coming to work then going home without any social contact with colleagues, and often without social contact at home. They were worried that some of these international graduates were isolated and not receiving peer support or education in the way that doctors on the training scheme do.  There were also concerns that this group of doctors may not be aware of the expectations the UK regulator had of them, so the GMC and the Trust worked together to deliver the package of training which had several objectives. Doctors attending the workshops had repeated contact with the GMC and each other, enabling them to learn more about UK ethical guidance and build up relationships with other doctors to form a support network. Other programmes have included one for educational supervisors, focusing on leadership and teamwork.

The feedback the RLS team has received for the various Duties of a Doctor workshops has been very complimentary with more than 90% of doctors saying they would change their practice as a result of taking part in the programme. Receiving this feedback is really motivating for the team.

Future workshops

We are always eager to hear from trusts about any suggestions for future workshops and enjoy creating specific examples of how our guidance can be applied to sometimes niche and local issues to assist doctors with their day-to-day practice.

Any trusts interested in running Duties of a Doctor in their own organisations can contact either the GMC directly or their Regional Liaison Adviser who will be more than willing to help. All details can be found on our website.