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Whatever NCAS is, it’s better than revalidation

Simmering rage among my colleagues at Copperfield Towers this week. True, it’s been tempered by ironic amusement at news about how many GPs are likely to need remediation under revalidation compared to how many have to sit on the naughty step writing ‘I must not prescribe penicillamine for tonsillitis’ under the current system.

Because, funnily enough, revalidation – yes, annoying, expensive, patronising, nasty, time-consuming, hoop-jumping, box-ticking, arse-paining revalidation – will keep about 25 GPs behind after class each year. Whereas the NCAS – that’s right, an organisation so under-the-radar that, admit it, you’re trying to remember what it stands for – remediated nearly twice that many just last year.

Wow. So, obviously, if we really are determined to protect the public, yada yada yada, we should keep the tougher system. Sorry, revalidation, and I was so looking forward to meeting you.

 This was what we were chuckling about over our weekly caffeine-fuelled get-together a couple of days ago. Then someone mentioned RCGP president elect Professor Mike Pringle’s comment in the same story and the mood suddenly darkened as each and every one of us trotted out ‘Yes, I noticed that, too,’ together with some industrial swearing. What he said was this: ‘You might say if there is no increase [in remediation], why are we doing it [revalidation]? Well, since it became obvious revalidation was serious; it has had a catalytic effect on standards.’

What? I can understand someone who has invested a lot of time and effort in revalidation believing that it’s a worthwhile process rather than reckoning, as most of my colleagues do, that it’s another micromanagement tool that serves only to further depress, demoralise and denigrate the profession.

But to suggest that it was a whip that genuinely needed cracking over slacking GPs? I doubt I’d think that, and I certainly wouldn’t say it.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield