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Revalidation pilots ‘running into the sand’ as GPs quit due to technical problems

By Gareth Iacobucci

Some GPs taking part in the revalidation pilots have quit in frustration at technical problems with the toolkits used to collate their portfolios, raising fresh doubts over the scheme’s roll out.

The Government recently pledged its commitment to having all systems for revalidation in place by summer 2012, to ensure sufficient time to pilot and test the GMC’s newly streamlined system.

But GP leaders have warned that the current pilots, due to end next March, are ‘running into the sand’ due to technical problems, and insist further testing of the system is imperative before revalidation is rolled out.

Speaking in a Health Committee evidence session on revalidation, Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of BMA Scotland and a GP in Balfron, Stirlingshire, told MPs: ‘The pilots, from what I understand, are somewhat running into the sand. They are delayed, there are people dropping out, there is a great deal of frustration with the revalidation toolkit and the software, which I think is a shame.’

Dr Keighley called for the pilots to be re-tested to take account of the GMC’s more streamlined plans for revalidation, even if it meant delaying the rollout beyond summer 2012.

‘I think it’s important, even if we have slightly more delays, to leave enough time to evaluate the pilots and act upon lessons that we learn.’

The DH’s Revalidation Support Team, which is running the pilots, said ‘a very small number’ of doctors had dropped out of the pilots.

Dr Nick Lyons, medical director of the Revalidation Support Team, clinical lead for the pathfinder pilots, and a GP in Wareham, Dorset, said: ‘Some [who have dropped out] have said other things happening within the NHS are occupying their time, and an even smaller number, we are talking in the tens, have expressed some concern about the electronic platform being used in the pilot.’

Dr Lyons said the problems were a combination of technical glitches and some people finding the toolkit difficult to use, but said the dropouts would not derail the pilots’ progress.

He said: ‘It’s well known that the toolkit went down on a couple of occasions, and also, the upload speeds due to congestion on the network haven’t always been perfect for some doctors and some sites.’

But he added: ‘We’re confident we will get the full 3,000 doctors to complete the process on the toolkit by 31 March 2011 as previously planned. We will get further dropouts but we’ve anticipated that and are recruiting accordingly.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We have commissioned an external evaluation of the pathfinder pilots. The information gathered will include numbers of withdrawals and reasons for this. The interim report will be published soon.’

‘The purpose of the evaluation of the pilots is to increase our knowledge for the second year of testing. An assessment of the readiness of the National Health Service and other healthcare providers for revalidation will be made in 2012.’

Dr Brian Keighley: Revalidation pilots are ‘running into the sand’ Dr Brian Keighley: Revalidation pilots are ‘running into the sand’ Watch the evidence session

To watch a video of the Health Committee evidence session, please click here.

The purpose of the pilots

– Test the proposals for a strengthened form of medical appraisal
– Test the role of responsible officers
– Look at the role of the Medical Royal Colleges or Faculties to support revalidation.

Source: Department of Health