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Surgeons' Responsibilities

In addition to your clinical commitments, you must fulfil many professional responsibilities as a surgeon. We provide information and resources on these below. Further information about this and the ideas underpinning this are available in our professionalism section. 

Guidance on good practice

The GMC provides a range of information on good practice, including ethical guides. Your trust will also have regulations and protocols that you should follow.

Good Surgical Practice

Good Surgical Practice (GSP) sets standards for surgeons and their practice, complementing those require of all doctors in the GMC’s Good Medical Practice. GSP applies to all surgeons, regardless of specialty, grade or whether they practise in the NHS or in the private sector.

Continuing Professional Development

In addition to the above, you also have responsibilities to maintain your clinical and professional skills and knowledge. Information about this can be found in our CPD section.

Clinical Governance

NHS organisations are accountable for continually improving the quality of their services and safeguarding high standards of care by creating an environment in which excellence in clinical care will flourish. Standards are set nationally and Trust Chief Executives are ultimately responsible for assuring the quality of Trust services.

As a surgeon, you will be required to take part in regular clinical governance meetings and you will be expected to report in an open and honest manner, any clinical errors or near misses from your clinical team.


As a doctor, you must protect patients from risk of harm posed by yourself or any other healthcare professional. If you have concerns about your own or a colleague's fitness to practice, and consider that patients may be at risk, you have a duty to report this to the appropriate person. You should follow Trust procedures where they are in place, but if they are not, or you are not satisfied with the local arrangements, you must inform an appropriate authority - for example, the NCAS, or the GMC.

Dealing with Complaints

You may be involved in complaints procedures within your Trust, or you may have a complaint made against you or members of your team.

Receiving a complaint against you or a member of your team can be stressful and upsetting it is important that the emphasis is not placed on blame but rather on using the complaint as a learning process to improve services and ensure that similar errors are not repeated. Patient liaison personnel within your Trust may be able to provide advice on how to deal with a complaint.

Information on complaints handling and clinical negligence can be found on the DH website.


You must ensure that you have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place if you are working for the NHS, you will be covered by their scheme. For other work, you will need personal cover. The GMC can offer guidance on this and on the requirement to join a medical defence union.

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