spirituality and medicine:
curriculum development project

The GMC and Tomorrow's Doctors


Medical education in the UK is regulated by the General Medical Council (GMC). Their document Tomorrow's Doctors (latest revision 2003) sets out recommendations for medical schools to ensure that they produce doctors who meet the standards set out in the GMC's Good Medical Practice. Medical schools are obliged to follow the recommendations set out in the document, and it forms the standard by which they are assessed by the Education Committee of the GMC.

Tomorrow's Doctors does not anywhere address spirituality or religion directly. The closest it gets is in the section on 'The individual in society'. This mentions the need for students to be aware of a number of cultural factors influencing patients' experience of illness, but nowhere mentions spirituality directly. A consultation will be undertaken during late 2008 to produce a revised version of the document, to be published in 2009.

The Education Committee undertakes reviews of medical schools every few years to ensure that they are teaching students to the standards set out in Tomorrow's Doctors. In some cases little mention is made of teaching about cultural understandings of illness. In other cases, schools are commended for teaching on equal opportunities and discrimination, but not for teaching about how a patients views may influence their care. some, however, were commended for their courses looking at the cultural aspects of illness, and two for courses specifically mentioning religion in their titles.

Since time within medical school curricula is increasingly fought over by departments seeking to expand their quota of teaching time, it is important that the GMC makes specific mention of the need for teaching about spirituality in medicine, or else this important area of practice will find it difficut to become established.


The Spirituality and Medicine Curriculum Development Project is funded by the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.