Niall Dickson, the GMC’s Chief Executive, talks us through the first six months of revalidation in the UK.
After years of talk, it finally happened. The UK embarked on the biggest change to the way it regulates doctors for at least 150 years. From December 2012 every doctor practising in this country is required to be part of a system that can show the practitioner is competent, keeping up to date and fit to undertake their duties.
To say these are early days would be an understatement – but we are on the road and so far more than 13,000 doctors have been revalidated.
We began with some of the country’s most senior doctors – Professor Sir Peter Rubin, Chair of the GMC, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director for England, Mark Porter, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Council, and Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners – were among the first to be revalidated.
The success of this first period is a significant achievement for everyone involved from doctors who have revalidated to the new ranks of responsible officers who have made recommendations to the GMC.
The value of this process, however, lies in what happens at local level – whether it enables doctors to reflect on what they do and to get support to develop their practice. For some this will be a significant change, although most should already have been having appraisals and reflecting on their practice.
By the end of this year, we expect to revalidate up to 30,000 of the UK’s licensed doctors. Our aim is for the vast majority of doctors to have been through the process by 2016.
Smoothing the road ahead
Already there are signs that revalidation has had an impact on the ground with improvements in hospitals and other settings in the oversight of clinical practice. This is about helping to make sure patients in the UK receive safe, effective care. If we get it right, over time revalidation can make an important contribution to the quality of care that patients receive and provide increased confidence that the doctors who treat them are up to date and fit to practise.
At a practical level, so far we have received positive feedback from the doctors who have revalidated, particularly about the speed of the decision-making, and from responsible officers about the efficiency of the recommendation process and the support they have been given.
Pioneering a new system
The UK is the first country in the world to introduce revalidation across its whole healthcare system, covering GPs, hospital doctors, locums and those working in the independent sector. This is the most comprehensive system anywhere in the world for checking the competence of a medical profession, and we don’t underestimate the challenge for us as the regulator or for the profession. Other countries are looking at us as they develop their own processes and work has already begun on how to evaluate the system as it rolls out.
We are confident revalidation can make a significant contribution to safety and to the quality of care, and underpin the confidence patients rightly have in the doctors who treat them.
Read our guidance on revalidation