Dame Clare Marx joined the GMC as Chair at the start of January. Here, she reflects on her first few weeks in the job and tells us more about herself.

Was the start of my lifelong love of medicine that moment when, at the age of five and with an injured finger, I thought I’d put myself to good use in an A&E waiting room by quizzing other patients about what was wrong with them?

Whatever the stimulus, since that moment my journey has been that of a medical student, doctor, orthopaedic surgeon, President of the Royal College of Surgeons and, now, Chair of the General Medical Council.

It’s been a privilege to provide care, both directly and indirectly, to so many patients during the 40 years I’ve worked in the NHS, whilst in training and then as a consultant – first at St Mary’s Hospital in London and, for the last 25 years, at Ipswich Hospital.

Hearing someone tell you you’ve changed their life for the better is incredibly fulfilling, and I’m sure that’s what drives most medical professionals.

Listening to the profession

But delivering good patient care can’t be done in isolation, and it can’t be done without the right support. My career has taught me that listening and working with others collaboratively to lead change is the only way to tackle present and future challenges.

No one can be in any doubt that the increasing demand for quantity and quality of healthcare, with limits to the available resource, is a common issue across our health services. Since taking up my role as GMC Chair, I’ve been visiting sites across the UK, hearing first-hand what the profession, and other health system leaders, feel are the key issues.

I intend to keep doing this, and doing it regularly. I will be out listening and talking to people at all levels. I want the GMC to be a leader of positive change, so patients get the best possible care and doctors can develop their skills and careers in supportive environments.

Helping to maximise potential

I know that many doctors feel their confidence in the GMC has been shaken. They are unsure of its role and remit and fear its sanctions. That perception is something I want to alter during my time as Chair, and I’ve already seen first-hand that this is something the GMC is determined to change. I strongly believe that the best way to protect patients is to have well trained doctors working in supportive environments that allow them to maximise their full potential.

I’ve seen first-hand the work that teams across the GMC are doing with the profession and our health services, in all four countries of the UK, to help them deliver good care for patients. A lot of this work is not widely known, and it has been eye-opening to see just how much contact these teams have with front line medics, and how positive that contact can be.

A prime example is the support offered to doctors arriving from overseas to work in the UK. The Welcome to UK practice programme, delivered by the GMC’s liaison services, offers practical guidance about ethical scenarios doctors may encounter, and the chance to connect with others on a similar journey. Since January 2017 almost 4,500 doctors have come to one of the workshops, and over 90% have told us they would change the way they practice as a result of what they learnt.

The GMC can help the profession to lead the changes we need to make the NHS a better place, both for patients and healthcare professionals. It will take time but I firmly believe that by working together with the profession, patients and the public we can better support doctors to deliver excellent care for patients.