Sir Keith Pearson published his report on revalidation, Taking Revalidation Forward, in January 2017.  Since then, our committed team has been on the road to meet with groups and organisations involved in revalidation.

Here, the GMC’s programme manager for Taking Revalidation Forward, Helen Arrowsmith, gives an update on what’s next for medical revalidation.

In his report, Sir Keith Pearson underlined a number of areas for improvement in the revalidation process.

When we received Sir Keith’s recommendations, our first step was to get out and talk to the full range of organisations and groups who are involved in revalidation. We met with representatives across the UK, as revalidation has to work for doctors, appraisers, responsible officers, employers and patients in all four countries.

We wanted to make sure we heard the voice of doctors, so we’ve also been spreading the word at our regular events and sessions– here’s our Chief Executive talking about our key priorities at the Medway NHS Foundation Trust.

Quite rightly, people wanted us to weigh up the costs and benefits of proposed changes before making any major decisions. And all of their feedback has helped us hone in on key improvements that will have a positive impact on doctors’ experiences of revalidation and in turn, patient care.

Working together to drive change

The next step was setting up a new UK wide group of organisations who will oversee the delivery of improvements to medical revalidation – known as the Revalidation Oversight Group. The group is made up of our team leaders at the GMC, the four UK health departments, the BMA, training bodies, employer representatives, patient representatives and other interested organisations from across the UK.

At the group’s first meeting last month, we reflected on all of the feedback so far and agreed a practical plan of action. We’ll be delivering these actions together, to make revalidation a more positive and meaningful experience for doctors, responsible officers, patients and everyone in involved.

A key commitment in the plan is providing clearer guidance for doctors and responsible officers on what is required from them for revalidation, which will be introduced by March 2018. We want to make sure that doctors can see what is needed for revalidation, as distinct from other appraisal requirements set by their employer/organisation.

As well as our guidance, the medical royal colleges and faculties will update their guidance on revalidation, to clarify what are GMC requirements and what are their own recommendations for best practice.

Other actions we’re focusing on include:

  • Working with doctors and patients to identify how to make the patient feedback process easier and more valuable.
  • Offering more specific advice on how doctors should gather representative feedback from colleagues, including how those colleagues should be selected, making sure this aspect of revalidation is as robust and helpful as possible.
  • Developing a proportionate way to monitor revalidation regularly, so it continues to meet its objectives at a national and local level.
  • Supporting and strengthening processes for doctors working in multiple settings, particularly across the NHS and private practice – clarifying how we expect designated bodies to support doctors in these roles, making sure that organisations are sharing information relevant to revalidation and appraisals are covering a doctor’s whole scope of practice.
  • Creating a clear and accessible way to explain the purpose and benefits of revalidation to patients.

Throughout all of our discussions with others, it’s been great to see that people are keen to work together to deliver this programme of change.

Making the process more straightforward

We want to provide more regular advice and help to doctors in areas where we’re hearing questions – one recent example of this is where we’ve answered common queries from members of the Royal College of Surgeons (England). We will also make the information on our website easier to find and understand.

Collecting patient feedback is another element of revalidation that we know can be challenging for doctors in particular roles. For example, doctors who don’t have direct contact with patients, have both medical and non-medical roles, or see patients who are unable to complete a questionnaire themselves. We’re working with doctors to share more examples of how they have overcome these challenges to add to the case studies we have available on our website.

As well as finding out what the problems are so we can try to fix them, we also want to help by sharing and replicating examples of good practice. We know there are many examples of good practice in running meaningful appraisals and preparing for revalidation out there already. We’re collecting these so we can learn from them and share them with the profession.

Get involved

We want to get this right. That’s why we’ll be seeking ongoing feedback and working collaboratively through our new Revalidation Oversight Group, as we deliver the changes.

For example, since the release of the report, we’ve had some feedback from doctors who have concerns about the usefulness of ‘real-time’ patient feedback and patient comment websites. Other doctors already use this method of gathering feedback and actively promote these sites. It’s clearly a subject for debate and we’re looking forward to exploring different opinions on it in more detail.

If you have a suggestion about how to improve appraisal or revalidation processes locally, it’s best to speak to your employer or responsible officer. We would love to hear from you if you have examples of good practice which we can share more widely, or if there’s a key area you’d like us to provide advice on in our communications.

To share your views with us, please comment below or email TakingRevalForward@gmc-uk.org.