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NHS management cuts must not jeopardise revalidation, GMC warns

By Gareth Iacobucci

The GMC has warned ministers that the Government's plans to slash NHS management costs and scrap PCTs must not be allowed to derail the preparation for revalidation.

In its response to the Government's NHS white paper, the regulator said the NHS had already made ‘considerable progress' in delivering strengthened appraisal and clinical governance ahead of revalidation, but warned this could be jeopardised if resources are stretched too thinly.

The response calls for urgent clarification on where responsible officers will sit when PCTs are abolished, and warned that GP consortia would need to develop skills beyond that of many doctors on their register in order to carry out their new responsibilities.

A recent Pulse investigation showed that more than 90% of trusts were toughening up GP appraisal systems in an attempt to satisfy the requirements of revalidation.

But the GMC said it was imperative this process was not endangered by the cuts to management budgets and the abolition of PCTs.

Its response says: ‘Not least among these changes [in the white paper] is the very substantial reduction in management costs.'

‘It is important that this is done in such a way that the NHS is able to continue with the considerable progress that has already been made around embedding appraisal and clinical governance and to ensure the effective and proportionate introduction of medical revalidation which will make a significant contribution to ensuring even higher standards of patient safety.'

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘If you remove PCTs from the scene, you have to replace the medical director, who is likely to take on the responsible officer role, with some other model.

‘All we are saying is, we need a solution to this. We want to ensure there is a responsible officer that can take on all responsibilities for clinical governance. At the moment, we don't know what it will look like.'

The GMC's response also raises concerns about plans to reduce the Government's responsibility to oversee education and training for NHS staff, and said it was vital to ensure that functions ‘remain robust'.

It says: ‘The proposals potentially raise important issues of patient safety and the quality of care expected from doctors and we are keen to continue to engage with the Government to ensure that the new arrangements lead to improved standards.'

In a separate move, the GMC has also announced plans to set up two new teams to support and provide advice to GPs and employers ahead of revalidation.

The first team of employer liaison officers, who will supersede the role of GMC affiliates, will support medical directors, and eventually responsible officers, throughout the UK, offering specific guidance on revalidation and doctors' fitness to practise.

The second will provide regional support in England to postgraduate deans, medical schools, LMCs and others, replicating the GMC's existing regional offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The teams, which are to act as the GMC's 'eyes and ears' around the country, are being set up to establish better links between the GMC and its key contacts.

The GMC has warned that NHS management cuts must not be allowed to derail revalidation plans The GMC has warned that NHS management cuts must not be allowed to derail revalidation plans