Revalidation needs to be made less burdensome and more consistent.
That’s the message from a high-level review by Sir Keith Pearson on the process by which doctors prove their fitness to practise.
With doctors under mounting pressure in the NHS, preparing for revalidation needs to be easier.
Pearson said: “The principles of revalidation are sound but more can be done locally to support doctors to meet requirements while maintaining a focus on personal development and improvement.”
Revalidation was introduced in December 2012 and requires doctors to maintain a five-yearly licence to practise medicine – proving that they are up to date in their clinical understanding.
Pearson suggested more work needed to be done to secure the confidence of the medical profession in its processes.
He recommended that the GMC should update its guidance on the information doctors need to collect and to make clear what is sufficient and mandatory.
Responsible Officers should avoid placing revalidation requirements on doctors that go beyond what is specified as necessary by the GMC.
Pearson also expressed concerns that revalidation is sometimes less rigorous for doctors who work outside managed environments or who move jobs frequently, like locums. He also wants greater public awareness of revalidation and how they can contribute with feedback.
Public assurance would be improved by local healthcare organisations promoting revalidation to their patients, explaining its importance.
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, commented: “Revalidation helps strengthen patient trust by ensuring doctors have a system of regular appraisals.
“This review highlights the importance of making the process less burdensome and more consistent. It also emphasises the importance of revalidation not being used as a tool to achieve objectives beyond the scope of the GMC’s requirements.”
The BMA welcomed the recommendations but questioned when they would be turned into reality.
Pearson concluded: “Revalidation is still a new process; it is important that we learn from the first cycle to make it more effective in the next. I do not believe a major overhaul is needed.”
Charlie Massey, CEO of the GMC, said: “Revalidation has embedded the system of annual appraisals for doctors and it is integral to assuring patients that a doctor’s fitness to practise is checked regularly, but it is important that we learn and improve the process so all doctors find it a positive experience.
“Doctors are under increasing pressure, and it is vital they are given the appropriate time and support for their own learning and wellbeing. It is important that revalidation is made as efficient as possible, while maximising its impact.”