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In a Nutshell ... GMC licensing

Carole Slingsby looks at key licence-to-practise rules and urges GPs not to miss the GMC's deadline.

Q: What is a licence to practise?

A: Holding a licence will become a legal requirement from 16 November 2009 if you want to continue practising medicine in the UK.

A licence to practise is the first step in the introduction of revalidation for GPs and other doctors. Revalidation is now due to start at the earliest in April 2011 and, as part of the revalidation process, GPs will have to renew their licence to practise every five years.

Licences are not replacing GMC registration. You will need to be registered with the GMC and hold a license to carry out any medical practice in the UK.

Medical practice includes, but is by no means restricted to, writing prescriptions, holding a post as a doctor in the NHS, and signing death and cremation certificates.

For example, doctors who only prescribe for private patients will need to be licensed.

Q: When must I apply for a licence?

A: If you have not already done so, you need to inform the GMC that you want (or do not want) to hold a licence. Don't delay - the deadline is 14 August 2009, only seven days away.

You can inform the GMC in any of these ways:

- If you have a MyGMC account, online at www.gmc-uk.org

- Filling in and posting back the licensing form enclosed with the letter about licensing the GMC sent you earlier this year.

- Calling the GMC contact centre on (0161) 923 6277.

For more about these options see 'Letting the GMC know your decision' at www.gmc-uk.org

Q: How much is the annual licence fee?

A: The annual fee for a licence to practise will be £410 - the same amount as the current retention fee for staying on the GMC's register. (This fee will cover both registration retention and licence.)

If you want to stay registered but will not need a licence (for example, because you are retiring from practice) the fee will be £145. If you have already paid your retention fee the GMC will adjust the amount due or give you a refund if necessary.

You will not need to contact the GMC to find out if you have been given a licence. The GMC will write to you before 16 November to confirm your status according to its website.

From 16 November you (and the public) will be able to check on the GMC's site that you are registered and whether this is with or without a licence.

Q: What if I am on long-term sick leave?

A: You can get a licence while off sick provided you are registered with the GMC.

It is not necessary to hold a licence while you are not practising because you can apply for one when ready to return to work.

If you decide to maintain your licence while on sick leave, you will still need to meet the requirements of revalidation when it is introduced.

Q: Can I hold a licence if the GMC is investigating me?

If you are being investigated under the fitness-to-practise procedures when licences are introduced on 16 November 2009 you will still be able to hold one if your GMC registration has not been cancelled or suspended.

If the investigation results in your suspension, you cannot have a licence during the time you are suspended.

Once a suspension is lifted doctors are automatically given a licence to practise.

- For more information, see the interactive guide 'Licensing Help' at www.gmc-org.uk

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