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Pilot study of revalidation uncovers ‘clear concerns’

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: A GMC trial of revalidation has identified ‘clear concerns' with the system, which doctors are believed to have found excessively bureaucratic and time-consuming, Pulse can reveal.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum is urging the Government to release the unpublished findings from the report to allow an ‘open and honest debate'.

Sources told Pulse there was nervousness within the BMA over the report's findings, which could make it difficult for doctors' leaders to maintain support for revalidation.

The pilot in Merseyside – led by the Royal College of Physicians - has been designed to test the GMC's appraisal framework in secondary care doctors. But its findings will be keenly felt by primary care, with GPs due to be revalidated from 2011.

It comes in a week after health secretary Andy Burnham officially launched a new wave of pilots for revalidation, with 3,000 doctors – including many GPs – due to be appraised on the quality and safety of their care across 10 regions.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said in a revalidation update newsletter: ‘This process needs to be thoroughly tested, involving doctors from each specialty and sector with independent evaluation.

‘Where the pilots flag up clear concerns, as they have in the Mersey region, these should be publicised so that there can be an open and honest debate.

He warned: ‘If there is no opportunity for lessons to be learned and improvements made to the process, the end-product may not be fit for purpose.'

Dr Meldrum told Pulse that the pilots should not be a mere ‘window dressing exercise'.

He said: ‘We have to look at how we change the situation so it isn't overly bureaucratic and excessively time-consuming. Everybody has to have access to the findings.

‘Particularly as we're going into a period where resources are going to be tight, it would be counter-productive to take doctors away from their main role of seeing patients to spend a lot a lot of time on something that's excessively bureaucratic.'

Meanwhile, both the BMA and RCGP have declared they will only lend their full support to revalidation if the Government agrees to fund remediation.

An RCGP policy document, produced in conjunction with the BMA and other key bodies, said: ‘If funds are insufficient, remediation will not be effective, and the profession will not agree to revalidation going ahead.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum