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Revalidation process is unable to adequately assess GPs, MPs find

The revalidation process for GPs has come under fire from a group of influential MPs, which concluded responsible officers are unable to form the necessary professional relationship with the practitioners they are assessing.

The Commons health committee’s annual review of the GMC found that the ‘sheer number’ of GPs in the remit of each of the 27 responsible officers in England ‘precludes the type of professional relationship necessary to make informed decisions about the revalidation of an individual GP’.

The MPs found there was a ‘worrying approach to the oversight of revalidation’ which was both ‘dangerous and unprofessional’, raising concerns about the degree to which responsible officers would be held to account for their decisions on revalidation.

They also criticised the regulator for failing to communicate well with doctors when they are going through the fitness-to-practise panel procedure.

The report comes after Pulse reported that only one GP had been put into a remediation process by a responsible officer as a result of the revalidation process, causing GP leaders to question the value of the scheme.

The committee’s report highlighted concerns over fact that there are 27 responsible officers – one for each NHS England local area team – overseeing the revalidation of GPs in England.

Committee chair Stephen Dorrell MP said: ‘Just 27 responsible officers will be tasked with overseeing revalidation for approximately 45,000 GPs in England. The committee is concerned that, whatever the resources allocated to responsible officers, the sheer number of doctors they will be required to assess precludes the type of professional relationship necessary to make informed decisions about the revalidation of an individual GP.’

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Mr Dorrell added: ‘The committee is concerned that there appears to vacuum of personal accountability in the process of revalidation. By definition a “responsible officer” should be held to account for the decision to revalidate an individual doctor, but the culture already appears to be developing that it is a “system responsibility” rather than the personal responsibility of the responsible officer.’

He warned that the development was ‘dangerous and unprofessional.’

The health committee report also concluded that there were failures to communicate the reasons for fitness-to-practise panel decisions and poor investigative practices have undermined a small number on investigations.

Last month Pulse revealed that each year the GMC is storing hundreds of secret complaints about GPs. These complaints are judged to be low-level and are therefore not acted on – but they are filed away for possible use in the event of a future investigation.