General Medical Council

healthcare regulator for medical profession in the UK

The General Medical Council (GMC) is a fee-based registered charity with statutory obligation to maintain a register of medical practitioners within the United Kingdom.[1] Registration with the GMC confers a number of privileges and duties.[2]



There is a legal requirement for a register, the list of "registered medical practitioners" in Britain.[3] That is the main job of the GMC. The GMC controls entry to the List of Registered Medical Practitioners ("the medical register"). "The main objective of the General Council in exercising their functions is to protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public".[4]

Secondly, the GMC regulates and sets the standards for medical schools in the UK. It liaises with other nations' medical and university regulatory bodies over medical schools overseas, leading to some qualifications being mutually recognised. Since 2010, it also regulates postgraduate medical education.

Thirdly, the GMC is responsible for a licensing and revalidation system for all practising doctors in the UK, separate from the registration system. This was done by order of the Privy Council on 3 December 2012.[5]

Right to free choice


Citizens have a right to free choice in a democracy. Therefore, medical activities by an unregistered person is not absolutely banned:

The GMC maintains a register of medical practitioners. However, no law expressly prohibits any unregistered or unqualified person from practicing most types of medicine or even surgery. A criminal offence is committed only when such a person deliberately and falsely represents himself as being a registered practitioner or as having a medical qualification. The rationale of the criminal law is that people should be free to opt for any form of advice or treatment, however bizarre…[6]

However, most activities connected with being a doctor are effectively banned:

Registration brings with it the privileges, as they are described, set out in Part 6 of the Act. In reality, they comprise prohibitions for all those not registered. Section 46 prohibits any person from recovering in a court of law any charge rendered for medical advice, attendance or surgery unless he is registered. Section 47 provides that only those registered can act as physicians, surgeons or medical officers in any NHS hospital, prison, in the armed forces or other public institutions. Section 48 invalidates certificates, such as sick notes or prescriptions, if signed by someone who is unregistered. Section 49 imposes penalties via criminal offences for pretending to be a registered medical practitioner.[7]


  1. Application for registration as a charity by the General Medical Council - 2 April 2001
  2. GMC website – responsibilities and privileges of registered doctors
  3. [1] - GMC website.
  4. The Medical Act 1983 (amended)
  5. [2] Archived 2015-03-16 at the Wayback Machine - GMC website.
  6. Cave, Emma; Brazier, Margaret (2007). Medicine, patients and the law. New York: Penguin Books. p. 6. ISBN 0-14-103020-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. British Medical Association, R (on the application of) v General Medical Council [2008] EWHC 2602 (Admin) (3 October 2008)