Regular checks on doctors are to take place by the end of 2012 after the General Medical Council announced its decision to introduce the process of assessing doctors’ skills.
Annual appraisals will take place for all doctors in the UK and this will feed into an assessment every five years. As long as there are no problems, the doctor will be revalidated to remain on the medical register.
The appraisals will consider certain areas that doctors need to work on and any complaints or compliments they have received that year. Patients and colleagues will also give feedback and there will be audits of how patients are after seeing their doctor. Doctors found to be under-performing will still go through the GMC’s fitness to practise process before they would be either disciplined or struck off.
Patients’ groups have welcomed the GMC scheme because at present annual appraisals are carried out in some places but there is no universal scheme for monitoring doctors. Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said “patients will be truly shocked to realise that this kind of basic process has not been happening. We cannot afford to compromise patient safety any longer. This is a crucial step to ensure clinical staff have the right expertise to care for patients.”
Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the GMC said “revalidation is on its way. From the end of this year we will begin to tell each doctor the date when he or she will be expected to revalidate. We are entering a new phase – after years of discussion about the principle, the reality of revalidation is imminent.”
Dr Brian Keighley of the British Medical Association said the purpose of revalidation is not to pick up bad doctors or one-off cases where things have gone wrong. Instead it is “about assuring patients that doctors are keeping up-to-date.” Dr Keighley went on to say that although many concerns have been addressed there are also worries about where funding would come from to fund training for those doctors who deemed to need help.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We plan to introduce revalidation as soon as possible, subject to a final decision by the Secretary of State, and we’re pleased that the GMC is ready to start the process.”