BMA members - if you have any queries, please contact our Employment advisers on 0300 123 1233 or email bma.org.uk/support
For a doctor to practise medicine in the UK, you must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) to obtain a licence to practise.
The GMC keep an up to date record of qualified doctors called the medical register. Doctors pay a fee to initially register with the GMC and then an annual retention fee to remain on the register.
In response to the recent Dr Bawa-Garba case, we have compiled some FAQs with regards to your GMC registration fees and the possible outcomes of refusing to pay those fees.
Can I refuse to pay my GMC fees as form of industrial action?
You cannot take industrial action directly against the GMC because they are not your employer.
Breaching the policies of your employer by not meeting the standards required of your employment, could be considered a form of industrial action. But in this case, there is no dispute with your employer, and therefore could not be protected by Trade Union Law.
What happens if I do not pay my GMC annual retention fee?
- If you do not have a current licence to practise
If your name is not on the medical register, you are not permitted to undertake any form of medical practice within the United Kingdom, for which registration and a licence to practise with the GMC is required.
- If you do have a current licence to practise
If the GMC does not receive your payment of its annual retention fee, they may erase your name from the medical register and remove your licence to practise. This process is called administrative erasure.
Failure to pay your annual retention fee does not automatically lead to administrative erasure, and the GMC often provides an informal period of grace.
Although once action is taken to remove you from the register, it may be backdated to the day on which your fees were due. Because of this backdating, an employer cannot allow you to continue working as a registered professional if you have not paid your annual retention fee.
What action can my employer take if I have not paid my GMC annual retention fee?
When your employer discovers that you have not paid your fees, once the due date has passed, you may be required to:
- take unpaid leave
- work in an unregistered capacity, such as administrative work only (with associated reduction in pay)
- undergo disciplinary action, potentially leading to dismissal from employment
Can I be dismissed by my employer for failing to keep up my GMC registration?
This will be governed by your employer's disciplinary processes, but it is likely that prolonged non-payment of fees will lead to termination of contract.
Can a doctor continue to locum, or undertake other medical work, if they have been removed from the medical register for not paying their fees?
No, any medical work without a licence to practice as a doctor is illegal under the Medical Act.
Will I be covered by medical indemnity if I practice without a licence?
This is a question for your defence organisation, but there can be no legitimate expectation of indemnity if you continue to practice medicine without a licence to practice.
Would I be allowed to return to the medical register if I have participated in a fee boycott?
Those seeking to restore their place on the medical register would need to follow the GMCs processes including the payment of a restoration fee, currently £325, and an administration fee, currently £10.
What impact will this have on my future career?
Boycott of the GMC annual retention fee, leading to administrative erasure from the medical register will likely lead to a disciplinary process which may be mentioned in future references.
What action will the GMC take in response to a planned fees boycott?
We are unable to predict the response of the GMC to a fees boycott, but the BMA, through the Junior Doctors Committee has raised with the GMC that members of the medical profession are considering this course of action, in view of the sense of anger and injustice created by the Dr Bawa-Garba case.
GMC - The medical register
The Bawa-Garba ruling: our response