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Doctors' skills under review

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The Health Secretary has revealed plans for UK doctors to have annual appraisals, with a decision taken every five years to determine whether they are fit to continue working. Jeremy Hunt has advised that if doctors fail to satisfy the standards of the General Medical Council (GMC), they would be prevented from practising.

There are currently no mandatory checks in place to monitor the performance of individual doctors. Although annual appraisals do happen in some places, these are by no means routine. Revalidation has been introduced to ensure issues are dealt with before things go wrong.

GMC Chief Executive, Niall Dickinson, said that revalidation will help improve quality and that this was, “the biggest change in medical regulation for 150 years.”

Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association, said he supported the revalidation. He added: “It is important to recognise, that while revalidation will undoubtedly enhance the rigorous testing that doctors undergo, clinicians are already offering patients a very high quality service and robust systems are currently in place to deal with any concerns. There is too much bureaucracy in the NHS and so we have to be careful that revalidation does not add to this unnecessarily.”

Each NHS organisation, from hospitals to GP practices will have a responsible officer in charge of revalidation. They will assess the annual appraisals, along with feedback from patients and colleagues, to make a recommendation about revalidation to the GMC every five years.

Major problems will result in the doctor in question not having their licence to practise revalidated, which may lead to disciplinary procedures being started by the GMC and could ultimately lead to them being struck off the medical register. Minor issues may lead to revalidation being deferred for a short period of time.

By Adam Pennington

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