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Thousands of GPs to be revalidated by non-GP responsible officers

Exclusive: Responsible officers who do not work in general practice are to make revalidation recommendations for thousands of GPs across England.

Figures provided by NHS England show that four of the 27 responsible officers at NHS England in charge of revalidating the country’s 45,000 GPs are on the specialist register rather than the GP register.

The news comes despite LMCs insisting that responsible officers must be practising GPs. It follows Pulse’s revelation earlier this month that the first GP is at risk of losing their licence to practise for failing to engage with revalidation, and official figures showing that one in ten GPs have had their revalidation deferred.

There are a total of 27 responsible officers - all local area team medical directors - in charge of the revalidation of 45,000 GPs, according to NHS England.

The 27 responsible officers at NHS England will be responsible for the majority of GPs’ revalidation recommendations, apart from locums. Responsible officers overlook the revalidation process, ensuring GPs submit their supporting documentation in time, and checking that the local systems put in place by the designated body are robust enough to support revalidation. They also make a recommendation to the GMC about a doctor’s revalidation by looking at the documentation sent to them. The GMC then makes the final decision on whether the doctor should be revalidated.

A motion backed by representatives at the 2010 LMCs conference demanded responsible officers ‘must be a practising GP’.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said that it was not necessary that responsible officers were GPs, as they will simply be making a judgement on the documentation they are sent by GPs’ appraisers.

He told Pulse: ‘The important point of contact is the appraiser, that you’re happy that the person who is appraising you really understands your practice and so forth. But in most cases the responsible officer will be a senior doctor. They will not be doing the appraisals, they will just be making a judgement on the information that comes to them.’

He added: ‘It’s something which I have no doubt NHS England will look at when the system beds in. If it were found, and I’d be really surprised, that the non-GP responsible officers were somehow doing something different, obviously it would be something to look at. I don’t think it’s something that should concern individual doctors. For the vast majority of GPs this thing will go through relatively smoothly, it really shouldn’t be an issue.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said ideally a responsible officer would be a GP, but if not then there should be a support system in place.

He said: ‘It is right that GPs who are being assessed for a recommendation should have that assessment from a GP who understands the context of general practice. If we have a situation where responsible officers are not GPs, we need to have a system to ensure a fair judgement has taken place.’

An NHS England spokesman said: ‘The responsible officer regulations require that a responsible officer has been a licensed medical practitioner for five years. There is no stipulation or guidance that a responsible officer should be of the same specialty, which would not be possible in secondary care.’

‘Only 27 of the 32 NHS England responsible officers make recommendations on revalidation for GPs. These 27 responsible officers also make recommendations on some secondary care locums.’

‘Medical directors of area teams have been appointed on the basis of their skills and experience to undertake their management roles, including responsible officer duties.’

Readers' comments (13)

  • Revalidation is an abuse of power by the GMC, nothing more. It's highly likely that it's harming patients by diverting resources away from the coal face. At every stage of its design, revalidation has not delivered anything that doctors can have confidence in. Despite constant reassurances to the contrary it is a failure of epic proportions constantly neglecting well established ethical principles. Surely holding those who devised this mess accountable is beginning to look somewhat overdue?

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  • I fail to see the issue here. Almost all hospital doctors will have as their responsible officer someone from outside of their specialty

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  • @9:49 the problem is that GPs and their work are poorly understood. getting a non-GP to revalidate a GP is unacceptable. There must surely be some understanding of what a GP does. how can a non-GP ever have that

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  • Perhaps they should just ask The Daily Mail to do it?

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  • @11:12 they probably will

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  • Ideally the responsible officer must undertake the same level of work as the person being" revalidated " . Unfortunately there would be nobody for 9 session gp's as the responsible officer would be occupied with real work.

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  • The very definition of the word 'profession' means that we should be 'regulated by a body of our peers'.

    Want to be my 'peer' and regulate me with my consent and willing engagement? Go to medical school, then get some post graduate training and some experience of practice, then we'll talk.

    The current system of doctor regulation, whether it be GMC, CQC or revalidation is 'external regualtion' and has nothing to do with peer regulation.

    As far as I'm concerned we have been reduced to the status of 'technical trade'. I submit myself to regulation in order to continue to be able to pay my mortgage and feed my children. I have no confidence in it's ability to protect the public, I resent the time it consumes that might otherwise be spent on direct patient care and I do not consider myself consensually regulated. It is quite frankly arbitary and abusive.

    I no longer consider my job to be a 'profession' and my attitude to terms and conditions, my planning for the future, and my professional development are adjusted accordingly. My sole aim is to 'dance as near as possible to the door' so that I can get out as soon as possible. For example. why on earth would I borrow money to invest in my business and innovate for the benefit of patients?

    I still just about manage to care about the patient in front of me virtually all the time and derived some satisfaction from my Job, but the rate of decay is worrying.

    Unfortunate really.

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  • There is a lot at stake for some here and injustices will happen. The responsible officer should be a trusted colleague from a neighboring CCG without any declared conflicts of interest.
    Most GPs will feel that this is yet another intolerable to add to the list of reasons for the accelerating exodus from the profession.

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  • I wouldn't be happy with a hospital doctor being my RO, in the same way that I would not be capable of being an effective appraiser for a hospital doctor.

    Our jobs are now so different that I would have little understanding about how many PAs they were undertaking etc, in the same way that I think a hospital consultant would struggle to understand all of the CCG and business related activity that we undertook.

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  • Niall Dickson states: The important point of contact is the appraiser, that you’re happy that the person who is appraising you really understands your practice and so forth. I would cling to this as non GP Appraisers (nurses or managers) are much more of a threat than non GP ROs. The system started out as formative not summative helpful not a tick box. The value (arguable I know) lies in the possibility of reflection, considering how to improve and in being helped , not in being counted or stamped

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