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IT failures plague revalidation pilots

By Ian Quinn

GPs taking part in trials of the Government's revalidation programme have been engulfed in IT chaos, a survey by the BMA has found.

The survey reported GPs and consultants were ‘overwhelmingly negative' about the performance of the revalidation pilot toolkit, which they said was ruining more positive elements of the trial.

GPs reported being swamped by problems with navigation and spending hours struggling to get to grips with a system which has been prone to losing huge chunks of data.

The survey follows Pulse's story last November which revealed some GPs taking part in the revalidation pilots had quit in pure frustration at the technical problems with the toolkit, with the Government having pledged to having all systems for revalidation in place by summer 2012.

The survey also found much more widespread problems with the appraisals system, intended as the basis of revalidation.

The glitches in the pilot areas have seen many GPs and other doctors finding themselves being routinely logged out of the toolkit system by mistake, the survey found.

One doctor said: ‘It's difficult to navigate. It takes a very long time. The appraisal becomes an IT exercise with very little discussion - both of us huddled around one computer.'

Another added: ‘I spent so long collecting and uploading data that there was little time left for reflection, which I thought was the point.'

Most doctors involved in the pilot projects reported that they did receive sufficient help, advice and support with revalidation itself - although problems with the IT have for many ended up dominating the process.

However, the survey also looked more widely at the strengthened appraisal systems brought in by trusts which are due to form the basis of revalidation. It found that less than a quarter of GPs had sufficient CPD/SPA time within work hours to complete their assessments and nearly two thirds did not have enough administrative support.

Nearly two thirds of GPs also said they did not receive enough data relevant to their performance to help them through the process.

GPs spend the most time on their appraisals, the survey found, with more than 60% reporting it took them more than eight hours.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, described the survey as a ‘wake-up call'.

He said: ‘Every employer has a duty to provide appraisals and with responsible officers now in place across the UK, there is a statutory duty to make this happen. We are going to work closely with the four UK health departments and with responsible officers to make sure doctors have what they need by the time revalidation is introduced.'

‘We also recognise that if revalidation is to work, the systems that support it must be easy to access, simple and straightforward to use. The findings from the pilots suggest that some of the IT support was clunky and that does need to be addressed.'

‘At the GMC we have streamlined and simplified our proposals in light of what doctors have told us, and next month we will publish updated guidance on what appraisals need to cover, including the information doctors will need to bring along to their appraisal discussion. With good will and common sense we can all make this work.'

One doctor described revalidation as 'an IT exercise with very little discussion - both of us huddled around one computer' One doctor described revalidation as 'an IT exercise with very little discussion - both of us huddled around one computer'