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Government shelves revalidation rollout

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government has dramatically called a halt to the rollout of revalidation by pledging to extend pilots for a further year, and vowing not to implement the policy without the full backing of GPs.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has told the GMC that the Government does not have ‘sufficient confidence' in the current proposals, and has ordered that pilots be extended until 2012 in order to gain a clearer understanding of the ‘costs, benefits and practicalities' of implementation.

The dramatic intervention has cast huge doubt on the future of revalidation, which had been expected to begin in 2011, and comes just days after the BMA issued a stinging attack on the General Medical Council's current plans.

Mr Lansley said the extended piloting period was designed to ensure ‘full engagement with the profession, the service, and the public before a decision to move to full implementation', and that all plans were ‘proportionate'.

In a letter to the GMC chair Professor Peter Rubin, he said: ‘For the NHS in England, having reviewed the current plans, I do not have sufficient confidence that there will be time properly to gather and evaluate evidence on all aspects of revalidation and to amend plans in light of the current pilots.

‘I therefore intend to extend the piloting period for a further year to enable us to develop a clearer understanding of the costs, benefits, and practicalities of implementation so that it can be paced in a way that is affordable, supports high quality care and makes effective use of doctors time.'

The move aligns the Government with the BMA, which has called on the GMC to go ‘back to the drawing board' with its plans, amid fears that the current proposals were overly bureaucratic, and would prove too costly in the current financial climate.

As Pulse first reported last week, the BMA's response to the GMC's consultation says the process should only be implemented once workable proposals have been developed for all doctors, and when all pilots have concluded and been fully evaluated.

The response also criticised plans for representatives from the Royal Colleges to sit on revalidation panels overseeing colleagues and peers as ‘a conflict of interest', and outlines concerns that locums would be ‘severely disadvantaged' under the current plans.

GMC chair Professor Peter Rubin described the secretary of state's intervention as 'a positive move'. He said: 'The decision to extend piloting of revalidation in England will ensure that these systems are sufficiently robust without being burdensome or bureaucratic for doctors or employers.

'There is a major challenge here – making sure that hospitals, clinics and surgeries all have proper arrangements for monitoring and learning from the clinical care they provide. Nothing less should be expected from a modern healthcare system committed to safety and excellence.'

Andrew Lansley Read the letter from Andrew Lansley

Click here to read the full letter.