The BMJ Today: When is a doctor a GMC doctor and when is a doctor a Robodoc?

Plans to move doctors’ full registration with the General Medical Council from the end of the first year of foundation training to the point of graduation from medical school was first mooted over a year ago in a major review of postgraduate medical education and training. The plan was voted down at the BMA’s annual meeting last year with warnings of patient safety being jeopardised and a shortage of training places for home grown graduates should the plan go ahead. One doctor compared bringing forward GMC registration with “giving a driving licence to a young person who has passed the written part of the driving test but has had no practice or assessment on the road.” He said, “It is surely a recipe for serious accidents.”

Now Health Education England (HEE) has said it is to seek doctors’ views on the proposal, which would require primary legislation. The consultation will run for six weeks from mid-February and a report on the feedback will greet the Government after the general election. Anyone who wants to take part should keep an eye out for the details on HEE’s website.

In her latest column Margaret McCartney envisages a future medical workforce of Robodocs who are conditioned to be emotionless, super efficient, resilient automatons from the moment they enter medical school – all the better to deal with the overstretched clinics they will run and to follow unquestioning the latest health policies emitted from Whitehall. But what happens when things are not black and white, when the algorithm says “don’t know,” and the diagnosis cannot be unearthed? It is then when the emotional factors count more than ever, when human connections are key, and which is perhaps where medical training should have its heart.

The emphasis on heartfelt communication is repeated by another doctor this week – terminal cancer patient and elderly care consultant Kate Granger of “Hello, myname is” fame. Her campaign was endorsed by more than 80 NHS organisations on 2 February, bringing her ambition, as told in BMJ Confidential, “to see #hellomynameis in every single NHS hospital and for every member of staff to value person centred care and the real, tangible difference it can make” a little bit closer.

Zosia Kmietowicz is The BMJ’s news editor. You can follow her on Twitter @zosiamk