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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 00:02 GMT
Doctor checks 'to be easier'
Doctors will be revalidated every five years
New safety checks on doctors to see if they are fit to continue working are to be simpler than first proposed.

Five-yearly checks or MOTs will be introduced for every doctor in the UK from 2005 by the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors.

In the past, doctors have expressed fears they would be expected to "jump through hoops" in order to pass revalidation.

However, the GMC has confirmed the scheme is to be much simpler than previously planned.

Annual appraisal

Doctors will be allowed to continue to practise medicine simply by having a successful appraisal each year, said a spokeswoman.

All senior NHS doctors are now expected to have an annual appraisal, although there have been reports the system is not running effectively in some areas.

A report in Hospital Doctor magazine also reveals that, while GMC officials will be able to ask doctors for further information, most will be expected to pass without any extra checks.

Under the original plans, doctors were expected to spend a large proportion of their time collecting information to show they were keeping up-to-date.

It was also suggested patients would be able to fill out questionnaires on a doctor's performance.

In pilot trials last year, doctors were required to collect a folder of information showing they were fit to continue working.

This included evidence they adhered to high ethical and clinical standards.

At the time, many doctors denounced the scheme as overly bureaucratic.

So many will now welcome the decision to base the scheme on appraisals.

Concerns

However, patient groups have warned appraisals by themselves may not be strong enough to identify doctors who may not be up to scratch.

Mike Stone, director of the Patients' Association, said: "Doctors spend so much time coping with bureaucracy, anything that alleviates that must be welcomed.

"However, I am not sure that appraisal by itself is strong enough.

"I think we need further checks if revalidation is to work."

Dr Edwin Borman, of the British Medical Association, said efforts were under way to ensure appraisals were a good indicator of a doctor's performance.

"We are currently working with the Department of Health on this and we will be updating guidance shortly."

The process of revalidation was proposed after the Bristol heart tragedy, where up to 35 babies died unnecessarily in the mid 1990s.

GMC officials said the scheme would ensure all doctors kept their skills up-to-date and any individuals who were failing to meet acceptable standards could be dealt with sooner.

In a statement, the GMC said revalidation would meet the concerns of patients and doctors.

"The GMC recognises the need to introduce a system that is proportionate, efficient and effective.

"We believe that revalidation, linked with appraisal and a robust quality assurance process, will serve to reassure patients that they can have confidence in their doctor."


SEE ALSO:
System 'weeds out poor doctors'
28 May 01  |  Health
Complaints against doctors soar
09 Jan 03  |  Health


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