Objectives: The UK General Medical Council's Performance Procedures were introduced in 1997. This study aimed to assess the changing knowledge and attitudes about the procedures in British doctors at the time of their introduction and in the following 2 years.
Methods: Three questionnaire surveys, of separate representative samples of 800 UK doctors, were carried out in November of 1997, 1998 and 1999. The surveys assessed awareness of Good Medical Practice, attitudes to the Performance Procedures, agreement with Duties of a Doctor as a basis for disciplinary procedures, and attitudes to the Performance Procedures.
Results: Although awareness of the procedures increased over the period 1997-99, there was no concurrent increase in agreement with the core principles of the procedures, the Duties of a Doctor, which are spelled out in Good Medical Practice. Of 12 separate attitudes to the procedures, changes were found in eight over the time period, all but two of which were negative, and not in support of the procedures. Nevertheless many doctors were changing their practice as a result of the procedures, and that proportion increased during the period 1997-99.
Conclusions: Although doctors became more aware of the procedures, that increasing awareness was not accompanied by an increasing agreement with the procedures' underlying principles or their wider implications.