Last month the UK became the first country in the world to implement a scheme of regular fitness to practise reviews for its doctors. The new system of “revalidation’ was brought into effect by the Department of Health and the General Medical Council following calls for a method of flagging up problems with doctors at an early stage.

Revalidation will require doctors to undergo annual fitness to practise assessments as well as more detailed reviews every five years.

According to a Department of Health study, the new system is likely to cost around £100m annually which the government argues will pay for itself within a decade. The rationale behind this is that better care afforded to patients will result in fewer medical negligence claims, leading to savings of almost £1bn over ten years.

In a pilot study of 3,000 doctors, concerns regarding fitness to practise were raised in respect of 1% of them. The Chair of the British Medical Association said “we 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’.

The GMC is responsible for revalidation, which will be based on evidence relating to a doctor’s fitness to practise compiled over five years, including patient questionnaires and annual assessments. Proposals for revalidation were originally made as early as 2000 but were criticised as it was felt that they would not ensure that failings by doctors would be detected.

Although the system has now been implemented, the chairman of the General Medical Council, Niall Dickson, recognises that problems relating to fitness to practise will not be cured overnight. He said “revalidation is not a panacea. It is not a magic bullet to guarantee that care is safe or that every doctor is perfect. It will take time to settle in. We will need to evaluate and improve the model’.

If you are a doctor facing an allegation of impaired fitness to practise it is important that you seek representation at an early stage. Whether it is following an annual assessment or otherwise, our defence solicitors are able to advise you on all aspects of GMC law and procedure. Not only do we have the relevant experience needed to prepare a robust defence, we are ideally located to represent you; having offices in central Manchester close to the hearing centre. To contact a lawyer for representation at an MPTS fitness to practise hearing, call us today or send us an enquiry online.

By Paul Schofield,
GMC investigation defence solicitor