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Medicine Interview Hot Topics: Duties Of A Doctor (as per the GMC)

​Key Information

The following is reproduced from the GMC’s good medical practice.

Patients must be able to trust doctors with their lives and health.  To justify that trust you must show respect for human life and make sure your practice meets the standards expected of you in four domains.

Knowledge, skills and performance

  • Make the care of your patient your first concern.
  • Provide a good standard of practice and care.
  • Keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date.
  • Recognise and work within the limits of your competence.

Safety and quality

  • Take prompt action if you think that patient safety, dignity or comfort is being compromised.
  • Protect and promote the health of patients and the public.

Communication, partnership and teamwork

  • Treat patients as individuals and respect their dignity.
    • Treat patients politely and considerately.
    • Respect patients’ right to confidentiality.
  • Work in partnership with patients.
    • Listen to, and respond to, their concerns and preferences.
    • Give patients the information they want or need in a way they can understand.
    • Respect patients’ right to reach decisions with you about their treatment and care.
    • Support patients in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their health.
  • Work with colleagues in the ways that best serve patients’ interests.

Maintaining trust

  • Be honest and open and act with integrity.
  • Never discriminate unfairly against patients or colleagues.
  • Never abuse your patients’ trust in you or the public’s trust in the profession.

You are personally accountable for your professional practice and must always be prepared to justify your decisions and actions…

​What should I learn from this?

The GMC Good Medical Practice documentation is (relatively) new, and shows a changing medical profession that now emphasises the importance of respect, integrity, and working with patients. Doctors changed their practice in light of the guidance, with half of those surveyed by the GMC at the guidance’s launch stating that they would be making changes. Doctors found that some of the performance related factors were likely to create defensive practice, or be poorly understood. However, they also believed that they would reassure the general public and were generally appropriate for problems stemming from both technical competence and ethical poor decision making.

The guidance makes it clear that as a doctor you should focus on your patients, not yourself or your profession. ‘The care of your patient is your first concern.’ You should reflect on this and ensure that this fits with your idea of modern medicine. Each area of the guidance illustrates this central thrust – for example, the teamwork and communication section telling one to, ‘work with colleagues in the ways that best serve patients’ interests.’

​Patient Centred Care

A patient-centred model of healthcare is emphasised, with an entire subsection of the guidance focusing on this domain – ‘work in partnership with patients.’ You will need to be aware of the old, outdated paternalistic model of care, in order to contrast it with what is expected of a doctor today. The domain emphasises that you should listen to patients, give them the information that they want in a way that they can understand, that you should support patients and respect their right to make decisions.

Example Interview Questions

  • Tell us what one of the GMC’s ‘duties of a doctor’ is.
  • What is one of the ‘duties of a doctor’ according to the GMC, and how have you displayed that your character fits it well?
  • Do you think that the GMC’s Duties of a Doctor are in place to protect doctors or patients?
  • What do you think the GMC’S Duties of a Doctor can tell us about the manner in which doctors are expected to communicate with their patients in the modern era?
  • Do you think that doctors appreciate guidance like this, or find it a hindrance in their practice?
  • What do you believe the central ideal behind the GMC’s Duties of a Doctor is?
  • What would you add to the GMC guidance if you were able to?

​How to answer questions on the Duties of a Doctor

You should show that you have a good awareness of the overall guidance, and that you remember (and can recall) individual areas of it which you have deemed to be important. It is not a long overview so can be easily learnt. Try to answer a question on it by giving reference to the whole guidance, showing that you understand its emphasis on patient safety and patient-centred care. Make sure to point out that you believe guidance like this can only be helpful to the profession as it puts patients first and provides clear help for doctors.

Interview Questions & Example Answers

Tell us what one of the GMC’s ‘duties of a doctor’ is.

The GMC separates the duties of a doctor into four domains. One of these is communication, partnership and teamwork. It involves treating patients as individuals, respecting their dignity, treating them politely and considerately, and respecting their right to confidentiality. It also includes the concept of working in partnership with patients – listening to them, giving information to them in the right manner, and helping them to support themselves and come to decisions. It also involves working with colleagues in the way that best serves patients’ interests.


What is one of the ‘duties of a doctor’ according to the GMC, and how have you displayed that your character fits it well?

One of the GMC’s duties of a doctor is maintaining trust. This involves being open and honest, and acting with integrity. One should never discriminate against patients or colleagues, and never abuse the trust that others place in you. I believe this is displayed by my role as senior prefect at school. Despite many of the other prefects not respecting their position and ignoring the younger children that came to them for help – often tantamount to bullying them – I always ensured that I spoke to each child and did my best to help them as far as was possible.


Do you think that the GMC’s Duties of a Doctor are in place to protect doctors or patients?

I believe that the GMC’s guidance here is chiefly in place to protect patients. Each domain of knowledge, skills and performance, safety and quality, communication, teamwork, and partnership, and maintaining trust shows a clear overall vision. That vision is of doctors who are on top of their work and their learning, clinically competent, able communicators, and who act with integrity. Whilst each of these might benefit the doctor – perhaps they will be more successful – or might protect them through educating them correctly so they do not make mistakes – in reality it is clear to see that these guidelines protect patients first and foremost.


What do you think the GMC’S Duties of a Doctor can tell us about the manner in which doctors are expected to communicate with their patients in the modern era?

The GMC’s duty entitled ‘communication, partnership and teamwork’ covers this domain. From it we understand that doctors are to treat patients as individuals – as real people rather than as symptoms or cases. This might mean a more holistic approach to care, taking the whole person into account. They should be polite and considerate, and respectful of autonomy. They must work in partnership with patients – this is perhaps the most important section, as it shows that the crux of the doctor-patient relationship today is the notion of patient-centred care; the doctor working in conjunction with the patient to make a decision, through providing them with information and guidance. This is echoed by the point that doctors must ‘respect patients’ rights to reach decisions with you about their treatment and care.’


Do you think that doctors appreciate guidance like this, or find it a hindrance in their practice?

I believe that doctors will find this guidance helpful. It provides a clear overview of what they are expected to do, and how they are expected to do it. It will have been produced after extensive research and collaboration with both doctors, healthcare workers, and the general lay public. It therefore can be relied on to explain patients’ needs and expectations, and the direction that one’s practice should take today.


What do you believe the central ideal behind the GMC’s Duties of a Doctor is?

I believe the central idea is to highlight the most important aspects of a doctor’s practice today, and to carefully and concisely outline this such that it may be used as a ‘bible’ of sorts for doctors. It emphasises recent changes in practice, especially the idea of acting with patients in a patient-centred care model, of interdisciplinary working, and of openness between doctor and patient. One could therefore see it as a modernising force, and indeed half of doctors surveyed by the GMC at the guidance’s launch stated that they would be making changes to their practice in light of the guidance.


What would you add to the GMC guidance if you were able to?

I believe that the GMC guidance is a comprehensive document that has been compiled in collaboration with doctors across the country, other healthcare workers, and the lay public. I therefore would not assume that I could add to it at this stage of my journey through Medicine. That said, I would hope that over time in my career I am able to reach a senior stage where I might be able to assist in the production of policy. 

Medicine Interview Hot Topics ​Further Reading....

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