More than two out of three patients say they will have more confidence in their doctor once a new system of regular checks on doctors is introduced, according to a survey commissioned by the General Medical Council.

The new system of revalidation will provide further assurance that patients trust their doctors by showing their doctor is up to date and fit to practise.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC

The new system, known as revalidation, will require all doctors in practice to demonstrate that they are up to date and fit to practise on a regular basis.

The poll of more than 2000 UK residents, conducted by Opinion Matters (1), asked them how confident they had felt in the last doctor they had seen and if their confidence would increase if they knew their doctor had been regularly appraised.

The vast majority of patients reported a high level of confidence with 86% saying they were confident in the doctor's skills and knowledge, although more than one in ten (14%) said they did not have confidence in the last doctor they saw.

The poll suggests that the revalidation process should provide further assurance to patients - more than 70% of those who were not confident in their last doctor agreed revalidation would increase their confidence. Even those who were confident in their last doctor said revalidation would increase their confidence further, with 69% of those who were quite confident and 63% of those who were very confident agreeing it would make a difference.

The GMC is currently consulting on how revalidation will work and is keen for anyone affected, including both doctors and patients, to respond to its plans.

One of the proposals is that the checks on doctors should include feedback from their patients. Those responding in the poll expressed overwhelming support for this idea with 95% agreeing that feedback from patients should be taken into account in reviewing a doctor's practice.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC said:
"We know that patients in this country justifiably trust their doctors and that is vital for good medical practice. But many also think that every doctor is already subjected to regular checks, and this is not the case - what this poll shows is that they would welcome further assurance. We believe the new system of revalidation will achieve that by showing that their doctor is up to date and fit to practise. It should become an integral part of high quality care throughout the UK and if we get it right we will lead the world."

Jeremy Taylor, Chief Executive of National Voices said:
"Revalidation will be good for patients in a number of ways. It provides valuable assurance that doctors' skills are up to scratch and that is really important. It could also help doctors improve their communication with patients, and enable patients to be involved in a doctor's regular appraisal.

There is a real opportunity for patients to help shape how revalidation will work through the consultation and so I would encourage people to contribute their views."

The GMC and National Voices are holding a number of joint workshops to help patients respond to the consultation. The next workshop will be held in London on 21 May 2010.

The GMC is keen to hear the views of individual patients, carers, doctors, employers and other healthcare professionals as well as members of the public during its consultation. You can respond online via our website (http://www.gmc-uk.org/thewayahead). Alternatively, you can reply by email to thewayahead@gmc-uk.org or in writing. The consultation runs from 1 March 2010 to 4 June 2010.

The GMC has produced a podcast to help explain revalidation to doctors and patients. The podcast features interviews with Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, Jeremy Taylor, Chief Executive of National Voices, Professor Malcolm Lewis, a GP and GMC Council member, and members of the public. The podcast can be downloaded from the GMC website: http://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/licensing/6750.asp.

Notes

(1) The survey for General Medical Council was carried out by Opinion Matters between 8 and 14 April 2010, using a sample of 2302 UK adults. Research results available on request.

The General Medical Council registers and licenses doctors to practise medicine in the UK. Our purpose is summed up in the phrase: Regulating doctors, Ensuring Good Medical Practice.

The law gives us four main functions:

- keeping up-to-date registers of qualified doctors
- fostering good medical practice
- promoting high standards of medical education and training

- dealing firmly and fairly with doctors whose fitness to practise is in doubt

Merger of PMETB with GMC

The functions of the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) transferred to the GMC on 1 April 2010, creating a simpler and clearer framework for the regulation of medical education and training. All stages of medical education and training now fall under the GMC's remit. For more information please visit http://www.gmc-uk.org.

Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA)

From April 2011, the adjudication of fitness to practise cases involving doctors will transfer from the GMC to a new body called the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA). OHPA is being established under the Health and Social Care Act 2008. It is being created to ensure clear separation between the investigation of fitness to practise cases and the process of determining whether a professional's fitness to practise is impaired.

To begin with, the new body will be responsible for making decisions on fitness to practise cases brought forward by the GMC and, in time, the General Optical Council. Over time, other regulators of healthcare professionals may transfer their adjudication functions to OHPA. For more information about OHPA, please visit http://www.ohpa.org.uk

The GMC will remain the regulator for doctors, continuing to set the standards for professional practice and receiving and investigating allegations about their fitness to practise.

Source
General Medical Council