Doubt cast over use of patient and colleague surveys in revalidation

Doubt has been cast over plans to use patient and colleague surveys in revalidation after GMC research found they are biased against GPs, locums, and doctors who qualified overseas.

The research found certain groups of doctors were at risk of obtaining lower scores based on their personal characteristics, rather than true variation in their professional performance.

It showed GPs, locum doctors and those who had not graduated in the UK or South Asia received poorer scores from colleagues.

Doctors who had trained in South Asia or outside the EU were likely to score lower in patient surveys than doctors who had trained in the UK, it said.

The study concluded that caution is needed when considering patient and colleague feedback regarding doctors’ professionalism.

Study lead Professor John Campbell said it was ‘heartening’ that the research found that the age, sex and ethnicity of a doctor were not key factors affecting patient and colleague survey scores.

He said: ‘It may be that doctors who have qualified overseas face challenges in becoming attuned to UK patients and the UK health service.

‘The main message from our findings is one of caution – that the public, the regulator and the medical profession must be careful about how the results of such questionnaires are used.’

But GMC chief executive Niall Dickson admitted that the research shows the results of patient and colleague surveys should be ‘treated with care’.

He said: ‘Being aware and taking account of how patients and colleagues view your practice is important for every doctor but it is only one part of the supporting information that doctors will bring to their appraisals.

It will be considered alongside all the other information about a doctor's practice and is not something which you can 'pass' or 'fail'. It assesses an individual doctor’s strengths and areas for development to help them improve their practice – it is not a way of comparing doctors with one another.’

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