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There must be no more delays to revalidation

MPs want the process to be running by end of 2012 and the GMC will be accountable to them

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 08 February 2011

The General Medical Council must ensure that there are no further delays to implementing revalidation and ensure the system is up and running by the end of next year, MPs insist.

Introducing a system of formal checks to verify the competency of doctors has been under discussion for more than ten years and the plan is now to introduce the system by the end of 2012.

A brief inquiry by the House of Commons Health Committee, published today, concluded that it has taken too long and that the GMC should be more accountable to Parliament. The Committee intends that the GMC will in the future be accountable through them.

“Now that “late 2012” has been set as the date of implementation, we look to the GMC to ensure that there are no further delays and that the current target date is achieved,” the report says.

The Committee also emphasised that too little attention has been given to the issue of how to deal with doctors whose practice gives cause for concern.

The report says: “We regard this as an important weakness in the current proposals which the GMC needs to address if the introduction of revalidation is to help sustain public confidence in the medical profession.”

It adds: “The Committee is concerned that the instinctive use of the word ‘remediation’ in cases where a doctor’s performance gives cause for concern may have the effect of pre-judging the appropriate response to a particular set of circumstances. While it is important to ensure that the rights and legitimate interests of doctors are safeguarded, the primary purpose of revalidation is to protect the interests of patients.”

The Committee wants the GMC to publish clear guidance for Responsible Officers on how they should deal with the cases of doctors whose performance gives rise to concern.

The Committee also said that “the ability of a doctor to communicate effectively with his or her patient as fundamental to good medicine”. “We expect the GMC to satisfy itself that it has the necessary powers to fulfil this role; if it is not satisfied (whether as a result of EU legislation or for any other reason) we expect it to say so publicly and report to Parliament what changes are necessary to allow it to fulfil its function effectively.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said that introducing revalidation by the end of 2012 was its “number one priority” and that the GMC welcome the opportunity to report directly to the Health Select Committee on all areas of our work, including revalidation. “We have been calling for this for some time,” he said.

He added that currently the GMC is unable to check whether doctors from the EU were able to speak English so that they could practise safely. “We are determined to find a solution and are currently working with ministers and officials at the Department of Health to ensure patients are fully protected."

Overall MPs supported the GMC’s proposals that revalidation should be based on the conclusions of employers’ appraisal systems, but the Health Committee report warned that “patchy” systems need to be addressed and that patient and colleague involvement in the appraisal process is important.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum agreed, saying: “The BMA has received reports that some doctors are not being appraised and some do not even have access to data from their Trust to enable them to be appraised effectively.

“I urge the GMC to take note of this inquiry and work with doctors to ensure that revalidation is delivered on time and benefits patients and doctors.”

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