At its meeting on 30 April 2019, the GMC Council made an interim decision on proposals for the introduction of credentials. As well as agreeing a slight name change to provide greater clarity – to ‘GMC-regulated credentials’ – they have agreed to proceed in principle with a revised framework, pending their final decision in June.

Here Phil Martin, the GMC’s Assistant Director for Education Policy, explains more.

Our Council has provisionally decided [PDF] to proceed with the introduction of GMC-regulated credentials, which will recognise the knowledge and skills doctors have in particular areas of practice.

Credentialing has been discussed for over a decade now. But, more recently, we’ve developed a draft framework for GMC-regulated credentials and engaged with a range of stakeholders, both face to face and by asking for feedback. The result is a proposal that will enable credentials to address patient safety concerns while complementing existing training.

A full and detailed report on that stakeholder engagement will be reviewed by our Council in June, before it makes a final decision to go ahead with credentials.

People hold differing views on how credentials can support patient safety. We know that credentials divide opinion, and we will continue to address the myths and misconceptions that have evolved while the principles and processes have been developed.

As the first credentials are developed, we will continue to engage with all those who have a key role or an interest in this area of our work – whether they are broadly in favour or if they have questions or concerns about our approach.

And we’ll also continue to seek assurance from governments across the UK that they will fund GMC-regulated credentials, where they have been commissioned to support the NHS medical workforce.

Focusing on patient safety

In our engagement, many stakeholders supported the principle of credentials, and the idea that they should be focused on areas where there is a potential risk to patient safety and clear service need.

However, credentials will not replace postgraduate training. They should complement it, and help towards the shared goals we all have for continued high quality training. This was a real concern from the engagement, and one that we will address.

To make sure of this, proposals for credentials will have to show that they have considered the impact on relevant postgraduate training, and this is something we will evaluate through our rigorous quality assurance processes.

Patient care and excellent professional standards are, and will continue to be, at the heart of this work.

Reviewing credentials with all involved

All submissions for credentials will be reviewed carefully. To assist us we’ll set up a task and finish group, which will include representatives of doctors from across all career stages, as well as representatives of patients and employers from the four countries of the UK.

Once credentials are introduced we will evaluate them and any impact they have on relevant postgraduate training.

It’s taken us a lot of work, and a lot of time, to get to this point, and we’ll continue to involve others as we move towards a system of GMC-regulated credentials. 

Where are credentials needed?

We are planning to take a phased approach to the introduction of credentialing. We’ve worked with the UK Medical Education Reference Group – with representatives from all four UK health departments and the four postgraduate medical education bodies – to identify the first few areas for credentials. We expect these will be:

  • Rural and remote health, led by NHS Education for Scotland
  • Cosmetic surgery, led by the Royal College of Surgeons
  • Liaison psychiatry, led by the Royal College of Psychiatry
  • Mechanical thrombectomy, led by the Royal College of Radiologists
  • Pain medicine, led by the Faculty of Pain Medicine

Subject to our Council’s final go ahead in June, and based on the proposals continuing to develop, we hope all five will enter our approvals process over the next twelve months.

We remain committed to continuing to support doctors’ professional development, to benefit patient safety, and credentialing is just a part of that work. If you have any questions about this update, or about our plans for credentialing more generally, please contact us at credentialing@gmc-uk.org.