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‘Witch hunt’ warning as one in 10 GPs volunteering to pilot revalidation have performance concerns raised

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: One in 10 GPs volunteering to test out revalidation had concerns raised about their performance during toughened appraisals used as benchmarks for the pilots, Pulse can reveal.

GP leaders have warned the high rate of performance concerns, among GPs self-selected for their interest in appraisal and personal development, raise fears that revalidation could become a ‘bureaucratic witch hunt’.

One GP, of just under 250 in the first of wave of volunteers, had so many concerns raised that restrictions were placed on their practice.

The findings emerged from an interim report of the Revalidation Support Team’s pathfinder pilots, commissioned by the Department of Health to test out the scheme’s appraisal system.

Over 3,000 doctors were invited to take part in the pilots – taking place across 10 sites – and around 650 doctors have volunteered.

The appraisal results will be used as a baseline to measure the pilots against, and relate to data collected prior to their commencement in April 2010.

Performance concerns were identified for 24 of 245 GPs appraised, most related to ‘insufficient time spent practising’.

Those findings will heighten fears that sessional and part-time GPs might struggle to produce sufficient evidence for revalidation. They could also put GPs off taking leadership roles on commissioning, because of concerns they might not spend enough time in practice to get through the scheme.

It is the second alarming piece of news to hit the revalidation rollout in recent weeks, after Pulse revealed dozens of GPs had quit the pilots in frustration because of technical problems with the toolkits used to assemble portfolios.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We’ve always been led to believe a tiny minority of GPs would be affected in this way so the results are very worrying. I’d be very concerned if revalidation is turning into some sort of bureaucratic witch hunt.’

Pulse is this week launching a revalidation hotline to gather GPs’ experiences of the pilots and views of revalidation and collect a dossier of evidence about the controversial scheme.

Dr Nick Lyons, medical director of the Revalidation Support Team and a GP in Wareham, Dorset, said the pilots aimed to ensure appraisals were run more consistently across the board: ‘We want to make sure it is a proportional system which mustn’t discriminate against doctors.’

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said the results highlighted particular problems for locums.

We work in many different practices, don’t get support, don’t generally work in teams and there aren’t the mechanisms to collect that information,’ he said.

Dr Richard Vautrey: ‘I’d be very concerned if revalidation is turning into some kind of bureaucratic witch hunt’ Dr Richard Vautrey: ‘I’d be very concerned if revalidation is turning into some kind of bureaucratic witch hunt’ Pulse’s revalidation hotline

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