The head of the BMA has admitted revalidation is ‘not going to be perfect from the start' and the profession may have to proceed without all issues the union is fighting for being resolved.
The comments come as nine patient groups wrote to health secretary Andrew Lansley to urge him to press ahead with revalidation from January 2013, saying there should be ‘no further delay'.
The BMA outlined six red lines over revalidation in a letter to ministers in April, but BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said they would reach a point where they had improved revalidation as much as they could and should go ahead with implementing the scheme for greater scrutiny of doctors.
The areas the BMA highlighted included funding for remediation, the clinical governance information collected on doctors and how locum doctors can gain the evidence required.
In the latest issue of the BMA newsletter, Dr Porter wrote the process for revalidation was much improved and while there was some progress on the issue of clinical governance procedures, the issue of funding for remediation remained a sticking point.
He told BMA News: ‘Anybody who remembers the initial version of revalidation piloted two years ago will realise what a huge change there has been, and what a huge reduction on the burden of doctors there has been.
‘I think there has to be a point at which we say we have come as far as we can in terms of making it a good process and making sure no doctor will be adversely affected by the process not being perfect from the start. Let's go.'
The GMC – the regulator in charge of revalidation – declared itself ready for the exercise in a statement last month, and the Government is due to publish its own readiness assessment later this year.
Patient groups – including the Patients Association and the National Association of LINks Members – today wrote to the Department of Health saying the implementation of revalidation should not be delayed.
Their letter said: ‘We recognise the contribution that revalidation can make over time to the quality and safety of care that patients receive. We trust that the health secretary will make this decision with the views and interests of patients paramount by ensuring there is no further delay in revalidating doctors' licences.'
GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said they were making some progress in negotiations: ‘These are the same problems we have been discussing for 20 years and are the reason revalidation didn't happen 20 years ago, when it was first discussed.
‘We are having an amicable discussion with the other parties in the debate and are working to solve these problems. We have said that if these issues do not get sorted, then we cannot support revalidation.'
But other GPs say they feel ‘insulted' by the whole process.
Commenting in Pulse earlier this week, Dr Mike Ashworth, a GP in Wigan, said: ‘Of course we have to accept revalidation as an inevitable result of the march of the clipboard brigade, but we should not for one moment acknowledge that it is going to make us better doctors or improve our service to our patients.
‘I remain, as I have always been, insulted by this process.'