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Government toughens revalidation to act earlier on failing GPs

By Christian Duffin

The Department of Health has pledged to tighten up revalidation procedures to intervene earlier and prevent GPs who cannot be brought up to scratch from practising further.

The move follows criticism from an influential group of MPs who claimed that revalidation focused too much on remediation, and not enough on removing potentially dangerous doctors from contact with patients.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said that guidance will now be issued by the GMC to responsible officers detailing clearly which sanctions should be given when a doctor’s performance is poor under revalidation, and when fitness to practise procedures should be triggered.

Pulse revealed in January that record numbers of GPs were referred for performance issues in trials of revalidation, with concerns raised for one in 10 GPs, despite being self-selected for their interest in appraisal.

The Government’s pledge came in its response to the House of Commons’ Health Committee report on the revalidation of doctors published today. The committee’s report, published in February, criticised the existing plans for revalidation, saying they were too light touch and did not do enough to protect patients from potentially dangerous doctors.

The Government’s response says: ‘The Department agrees there is a need for guidance that makes it clear to responsible officers and doctors when a doctor’s conduct and performance can be considered to be below the level which is acceptable and fitness to practise procedures will be triggered.

‘The Department also considers there is a need for guidance about the processes that will be in place when a responsible officer is unable to make a positive recommendation about revalidation.

‘Officials will be working with the GMC to ensure that this guidance is in place before the first recommendations are made.’

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘For the vast majority of doctors, the more systematic annual appraisal will provide the basis for reflective practice and improvement, an essential developmental process.

He added: ‘For the small proportion of doctors about whom there may be concerns, the strengthening of local clinical governance and a more objective annual appraisal provides the means for identifying problems earlier and either putting in place remediation or, if not possible, taking steps to remove them from clinical practice.’

The GMC has said that the revalidation changes will come into force from ‘late 2012′.

Government response to HSC report on revalidation Health secretary Andrew Lansley will toughen up revalidation in the light of concerns