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Revalidation ‘fishing’ exercises are completely over the top, says GPC

Exclusive GP leaders have raised concerns over reports of responsible officers routinely asking CCG leaders for their opinion prior to recommending whether GPs should be revalidated.

GP leaders in Essex claim they have been approached by CCG leaders who were worried that they were asked for their opinion on every GP before they were considered for revalidation.

The GPC said the practice was ‘completely over the top’, and was not in the agreed process for revalidation. But NHS England has defended the practice saying that responsible officers had to ‘assure themselves that they have information’ on doctors’ fitness to practise.

Essex LMC chair Dr Brian Balmer said he had been approached by a number of CCGs who were concerned about the process that was ‘confusing’ revalidation with performance management.

He said: ‘We thought that was inappropriate, They are not saying we have a suspected performance issues, but for every single doctor being revalidated they wanted the opinion of somebody in the CCG.’

‘We don’t think that’s the business of the CCG. We think the responsible officers are confusing revalidation with the investigation of performance, and we don’t think that’s appropriate.’

The responsible officer protocol guidance issued by the GMC does not list CCGs as a ‘source of information’ on which to base a decision to recommend revalidation, but does specify that the responsible officer must ensure they have enough information on a ‘doctor’s compliance with any locally agreed conditions on the doctor’s practice or any unaddressed concerns about the doctor’s practice’

Dr Dean Marshall, the GPC’s lead on revalidation, said that although ROs were meant to consider ‘other issues’ outside of those raised in appraisals, that did not include routinely approaching CCGs for their opinion on doctors.

He said: ‘Appraisal doesn’t equal revalidation completely, but that does not in any way mean RO’s should be routinely going round checking everyone and asking if there’s any issues that’s not what’s meant to happen.

‘If the RO had other evidence that they were aware of, fine, but the idea that they’d go fishing around for everyone is not what’s meant to happen and completely over the top. It’s certainly not within the agreed process for revalidation and it seems incredibly overzealous and, I think, of questionable value and questionable extra administrative problems for everyone with the ROs doing this routinely.

But a spokesperson from NHS England, defended the move, saying it was within the remit of the responsible officer.

He said: ‘It is the duty of the responsible officer to make recommendations to the GMC regarding the revalidation of doctors’ licence to practise in line with the national GMC protocol.

‘To ensure this process is robust, Responsible officers must assure themselves that they have information on doctors’ fitness to practise.’

A survey of responsible officers in London by The King’s Fund published last month found that just under half were positive about their experience of revalidation. The survey of 53 of London’s 133 responsible officers found that 10% were negative about their experience whilst the remaining 40% said that they reserved judgement on revalidation ahead of year two, which they believed would be ‘trickier’.