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GP revalidation to “plug the gap” in public assurance

1 March 2010

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The General Medical Council (GMC) today (1 March 2010) launched a consultation on revalidation, setting out proposals on how it will work, when it will be rolled out, and what doctors and employers need to do.

Revalidation is intended to provide further assurance that the 218,000 doctors with a licence to practise medicine in the UK are up to date and fit to practise.

The proposals set out a system designed to be flexible and relevant to doctors’ day-to-day practice, building on existing systems that support high-quality care.

Revalidation will be introduced via a phased implementation following extensive piloting to ensure that it is proportionate and practicable.

Revalidation will not involve a point-in-time assessment of a doctor’s knowledge and skills, says the GMC. It will be based on a continuing evaluation of their practice in the context of their everyday working environment.

Revalidation will focus on affirming good practice for the vast majority of doctors but will depend on good clinical governance arrangements that should also detect poor practice.

The proposals in the consultation have been developed by the GMC in close collaboration with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the four health departments, the NHS and other healthcare employers, the medical profession, and input from patients and patient groups.

Professor Peter Rubin, Chair of the GMC, said: “For the past 150 years, the GMC has sought to provide assurance through the register of medical practitioners. It remains one of the most robust and well-used registers anywhere in the world. But it has always been a historical record of exams and qualifications earned, not of competence or performance.

“As such, it offers a limited assurance about whether each of us is maintaining the high standards expected of us throughout our careers.

“Revalidation will plug this gap. In one sense, what is being proposed is no more than what should be happening in every doctor’s practice – it is based on local systems of annual appraisal over five years and affirms what has already been demonstrated through that appraisal process.”

Professor Rubin added: “We want to hear from doctors, employers and patients across the UK in response to the consultation – we need to know the views of all of those affected to ensure that revalidation works, and is proportionate and flexible to meet the needs of a busy and diverse workforce.”