Doctors will start to participate in revalidation from this December, health secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed today.
All 230,000 licensed doctors will be expected to demonstrate they are keeping up to date and fit to practise, and have their licences reviewed every five years.
BMA council chair Mark Porter said the association had always supported the principle of revalidation because it was important for patients to be confident that doctors had the up-to-date skills and knowledge necessary to offer the best possible care.
He warned that it was important to ensure revalidation did not add to the large amount of bureaucracy already faced by doctors in the NHS.
Dr Porter added: ‘It is important to recognise that while revalidation will undoubtedly enhance the rigorous testing that doctors undergo, clinicians are already offering patients a very high quality service and robust systems are currently in place to deal with any concerns.’
He said: ‘The system soon to be rolled out is much better than the one initially put forward. But we still need to ensure consistency across the UK so that all doctors are working to the same standards.
‘And it is vital that sufficient support exists across the UK for those doctors who need it.
‘It is essential that revalidation is reviewed every step of the way so that we can be sure that the system works for patients and for doctors.'
The BMA has played a crucial role in shaping revalidation to help ensure it is not too burdensome for doctors.
It required seven principles to be addressed during the development of revalidation, including fully-evaluated piloting, funding for remediation and equality of opportunity to revalidate. Last month, Dr Porter accepted that these principles had been sufficiently addressed to enable the GMC's revalidation timetable to proceed.
The association has pledged to keep up the pressure to ensure outstanding concerns are adequately resolved and implementation is monitored closely.
Mr Hunt said: ‘Doctors save lives every day and making sure they are up to speed with the latest treatments and technologies will help them save even more. This is why a proper system of revalidation is so important.’
The GMC will run the revalidation system, which will be based on an annual appraisal and information doctors will collect about their practice, including feedback from patients, other doctors, nurses and other colleagues.
GMC chair Professor Sir Peter Rubin welcomed Mr Hunt’s decision.
He said: ‘We are confident that the introduction of revalidation will make a major contribution to the quality of care that patients receive and will give them valuable assurance that the doctors who treat them are regularly assessed against our professional standards.’
Doctors will start to learn their revalidation dates from December 2012. The GMC is expecting responsible officers, who will oversee revalidation at a local level, and other medical leaders to revalidate first, by March 2013. All doctors should be revalidated by the end of March 2018.
The government is also proposing reform of the performers list system in England. At the moment each of the 151 PCTs holds a list of doctors approved to provide NHS primary care services. Currently, poorly performing doctors who are removed from one list can continue practising in other areas.
The government is suggesting there should be a single, national list of GPs, dentists and ophthalmologists.
A consultation on reforming the performers list will run until January.