The GPC has warned GPs are now routinely spending more than 40 hours preparing for appraisals, with one negotiator launching an outspoken attack on revalidation ‘overkill’ and calling for the wider BMA to ‘get some balls’ in dealing with the controversial process.
Dr Peter Holden, a veteran GPC negotiator and GP in Matlock, Derbyshire, told Pulse he could ‘see a revolt coming’ over the ‘introspective’ process, in the strongest criticism from GP leaders since revalidation got underway a year ago.
Dr Holden told Pulse the BMA’s support for revalidation may need to be reviewed following reports that some doctors are spending more than 40 hours on the annual appraisal process since revalidation was introduced – five times longer than the ‘one working day’ specified in the 2004 GP contract.
He said: ‘In the 2004 contract, where we agreed to annual appraisals, it was supposed to take one day and that’s eight hours. But they keep expanding the remit, and it’s become an industry. And some of us feel that we wouldn’t mind if [the Government was] honest - it doesn’t take eight hours, it takes a week.’
Dr Holden added that his own and his colleagues’ experience of the process was a negative one. He said: ‘A quick straw poll amongst my colleagues this afternoon… we all reckoned it had taken 40 hours.’
He said revalidation now amounted to GPs being guilty until proven innocent, and said GPs were ‘sick and tired of having to prove to the authorities that we’re OK’.
‘Everybody knows you have to collect evidence in all six areas; some people would say you do it as you go along. But actually there’s an awful lot of what we do that counts towards it, and you don’t necessarily collect it as you go along, they also want you to reflect on every one.’
Dr Holden added: ‘A lot of us are getting sick of justifying every breath we take and categorising every motion we pass. This is all introspective crap, at a time when we’re under immense pressure. A lot of us feel this is becoming overkill.’
‘The BMA needs to get some balls over this - we’ve been too willing to fall over,’ he said. ‘We’ve been too willing to be blackened by the spectre of [Harold] Shipman.’
‘A lot of us resent the fact that we pay for the GMC, when in fact it is nothing more than the Government’s poodle. And I can see a revolt coming.’
The GPC itself remains in support of the concept of revalidation. But Dr Dean Marshall, the GPC’s lead on revalidation issues, said that there were mounting concerns over its implementation.
He said: ‘As lead for the UK, we get fed in lots of reports from doctors who are very unhappy with the process. Reports over 40 hours, I’ve certainly heard that. And what was once a day to prepare is now significantly eating into people’s personal time.’
‘I was having a conversation with my partners, a locum and one my sessional GPs this morning, saying exactly the same thing. That the process has taken over completely with no real evidence of any benefit to patients or doctors.’
Dr Marshall also warned against revalidation being used as a tool to performance manage GPs: ‘Unfortunately not being revalidated is frequently used as a threat, that you have to do this, or you have to do that to be revalidated. And either that’s completely wrong or really it’s a misunderstanding – accidental or deliberate – of the process.’
Dr Nigel Sparrow, the medical director for revalidation at the RCGP, and both a practicing GP and appraiser said they aimed to make the process straightforward for all GPs ‘regardless of working circumstances’.
He told Pulse: ‘We have just published version 8 of the RCGP Guide to Revalidation which has many changes to reflect the different roles and working circumstances of GPs. We have given guidance for collecting supporting information which should not be onerous particularly if collected throughout the year.