Letter: Revalidation is good, but not that good

Dear Editor 

Your correspondents, Dr Henk de Vries and Dr Ken Menon, make some very good points (GP, 30 June). But they also make a few bad ones.

In particular, they believe that revalidation will boost (Dr de Vries) or engender (Dr Menon) public confidence in us. Surely they know that every survey in living memory has shown very high levels of trust and confidence in and satisfaction with GPs.

To quote, loosely, Dr James Willis: 'What, precisely, is the problem that this process is intended to fix?' I can see all sorts of reasons why colleagues would argue in favour of revalidation but increasing public confidence in GPs is not one of them.

Dr de Vries argues that revalidation can protect us against allegations of incompetence.

Much as I would like to have something in my back pocket to keep the GMC off my back, I doubt very much if volunteering for pilot studies of revalidation will be enough. If we all have to be revalidated, the playing field is level; passing revalidation will confer no advantage over similarly revalidated colleagues and bring no additional protection against primary care organisation or GMC attacks.

Patients will continue to complain, NHS bodies will continue to harass GPs, disgruntled partners and ex-partners will continue to pursue vendettas and, by 2010, we will be encouraged to submit to another untried-and-untested process to put early adopters safely ahead of the rest of the herd, as least as far as GMC action goes.

As for the Canadian revalidation system, I have done 12 GP locums in Canada in the past five years, spending between four weeks and three months there each time. Not once has anyone even hinted at any kind of testing or review or appraisal or revalidation process for me.

As a foreign medical graduate I would expect to be subject to more checks than the average Canadian GP.

None of my comments is intended to rubbish the broad concept of revalidation of course, but we need clear logical discussion of exactly what we want to achieve.

Government failure to act on the recommendations of the non-appraised and totally non-revalidated Dame Janet Smith is an eloquent statement of dissent.

Revalidation as currently imagined is dead. Let's all start thinking about the Next Big Thing before the latest recommendations are set in stone.

Dr Declan Fox, Newtownstewart, County Tyrone.

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