Professor Jane Dacre, GMC adviser on competence testing, told GP that objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE) being developed for GPs undergoing complaint procedures ‘have a definite future as revalidation comes on line’.
‘A lot of doctors obviously don’t like the idea of a test every five years but if the CMO’s [Sir Liam Donaldson] suggestions pass, this is something for the portfolio,’ she said.
Previous proposals for revalidation tests have revolved around the GP’s clinical knowledge. Last year, GP revealed an online knowledge test that RCGP Scotland had developed for registrars but which could be adapted as a tool for revalidation (GP, 9 December 2005).
In that case, the PEP eKit would test the clinical knowledge of a doctor with a multiple-choice online questionnaire every five years or so.
But Professor Dacre said that the OSCE tests being developed for fitness-to-practise cases by the GMC were ‘designed to be more appropriate to GP practice’ looking at ‘communication skills and everyday procedures more than practical procedures’.
Professor Dacre explained: ‘One scenario involves a GP phoning a patient with the result of a test. The patient’s boyfriend answers the phone.’
The examiners would look at how the doctor protected the patient’s confidentiality and found another way to contact her without alarming her or her boyfriend.
Dr Elizabeth Howard, a GP locum in Greater London, was one of a number of GPs who took part in a pilot of the tests. She said that the exams were well designed and relevant.
‘There was nothing that a competent GP would have significant difficulty with or that a locum should feel disadvantaged by,’ she said.
The CMO’s recommendations, which include regular tests for GPs, are out for consultation until 10 November, after which the DoH will put together a plan for the future of revalidation.