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Revalidation system gets the go-ahead

BMA says process must be consistent, unbureaucratic and regularly reviewed

Louise Prime

Friday, 19 October 2012

The world’s biggest and most comprehensive revalidation system for doctors is about to begin in the UK, Jeremy Hunt confirmed this morning. The BMA broadly welcomed the biggest change in doctors’ regulation that the country has seen for 150 years, but said that the system must not be allowed to add unnecessarily to NHS bureaucracy, should be consistent throughout the UK, and must be regularly reviewed.

The Health Secretary announced that starting this December, all 230,000 doctors licensed with the General Medical Council – including those working as locums and in the private sector – will regularly have to prove that they remain fit to practise and up to date with the latest research, techniques and technologies. They will normally revalidate every five years, and the GMC will send out the first dates for revalidation in December; most doctors are expected to have revalidated by March 2016.

Central to the GMC-run process is doctors’ annual appraisal. They will be required to collate information about their practice, including feedback from colleagues and patients, and to tackle any concerns about skills such as communication and maintaining trust with patients.

GMC chair Professor Sir Peter Rubin said: “We are confident that the introduction of revalidation will make a major contribution to the quality of care that patients receive and will give them valuable assurance that the doctors who treat them are regularly assessed against our professional standards.”

The BMA said that it supports the principle of revalidation, but has reservations about the new system. Chair of Council Dr Mark Porter (pictured), said: “It is important to recognise, that while revalidation will undoubtedly enhance the rigorous testing that doctors undergo, clinicians are already offering patients a very high quality service and robust systems are currently in place to deal with any concerns.

“There is too much bureaucracy in the NHS and so we have to be careful that revalidation does not add to this unnecessarily. The system soon to be rolled out is much better to the one initially put forward. But we still need to ensure consistency across the UK so that all doctors are working to the same standards. And it is vital that sufficient support exists across the UK for those doctors who need it."

He added: “It is essential that revalidation is reviewed every step of way so that we can be sure that the system works for patients and for doctors.”

Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, urged all doctors to start preparing now for revalidation. He said: “Although only a fifth of doctors will be revalidated between April 2013 and March 2014, and the rest on a rolling five-year cycle, it is vital that all doctors begin preparing for revalidation by collecting their supporting information for their yearly appraisal and making themselves familiar with the process.

“The RCP has produced specialty guidance for physicians on supporting information … [and] a range of resources to help fellows and members to prepare for revalidation, including an online revalidation portfolio.”

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