Updated General Medical Council (GMC) guidance has led to a sustained fall in the number of low-level fitness to practise declarations needing no further action.

The GMC wrote on its website, to join the UK register, final year medical students studying in the UK must apply for provisional registration and answer a set of questions to ‘declare’ any issues that may impact their fitness to practise as a doctor. .

Updates were made following year-on-year increases in students telling the GMC about issues that do not impact ability to practise safely as a doctor, for example well-managed physical and mental health conditions, and disabilities such as dyslexia where students have reasonable adjustments in place to support them.

The GMC updated guidance, introduced new questions and a ‘declaration tool’ to help students determine what they do and don’t need to declare. UK students graduating in 2021 were the first to complete declarations using the new questions and guidance. 

Since the new measures were introduced, the total number of declarations has dropped by over a half. However, the number of declarations that did need to be considered further by the GMC stayed in line with previous years. 

In 2022, of 7,943 applications, only three were refused (0.04%). Students who are refused often join the register later, once they can demonstrate the concern has been remediated. In 2022, health declarations were down by 63% when compared with the four-year average, pre-update. 

Lindsey Westwood, Assistant Director of Registration and Revalidation for the GMC said: 

‘Joining the medical register is a huge milestone, and effectively the beginning of a doctor’s career. After years of study, we know that students often face a difficult and anxious wait if they have told us about a potential fitness to practise concern. 

‘Our aim is to make sure joining the register is as undaunting and straightforward as possible, while picking up on those matters that do need further scrutiny. Most concerns can be resolved through management or remediation, and the number of registrations refused is very low.’

Raymond Effah, Co-Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA)’s Medical Students Committee said:

‘The BMA and GMC are both clear that having a disability or health condition does not prevent students from successfully studying and practising medicine. We know that many medical students feel anxious and uncertain about what information to share with the GMC about their disability or health condition – and worry that failing to provide information will have negative repercussions on assessing their fitness to practise. 

‘We welcome the GMC’s efforts to ensure that students do not feel pressurised into sharing sensitive personal information it does not need to see, and are pleased they have listened to students and taken action.’

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