The RO changes add to confusion surrounding revalidation. The DH and the BMA remain in dispute over who will fund remediation for doctors who fail revalidation, which is expected to start in late 2012.
RCGP revalidation lead Professor Mike Pringle and other GPs say there are likely to be about 50 ROs in England - one for each PCT cluster. Before the NHS reorganisation, it appeared likely an RO would be appointed by each organisation holding a GP performers list - in effect, 152 PCTs.
An NHS revalidation support team report last October said all PCTs had appointed or nominated an RO, 55% of whom had been trained for the role. The DH plans to consult on ROs and related regulations, but has yet to confirm a date for this.
Professor Pringle admitted the situation was 'still very unclear'. 'I would love to have more clarity on how many ROs there are going to be and where they are placed,' he said.
'At the moment it is likely to be around 50 for GPs across England. There are more than that already in post, so it is how they rationalise them.'
Professor Pringle added: 'Is 50 enough? I don't know because we don't know what the workload is going to be like. We know their responsibilities, although this is going to be refined following the DH consultation.'
He said ROs were likely to need small teams around them, and levels of investment in the revalidation process would be the key to its success, not the number of officers in post.
Wessex LMCs chairman Dr Nigel Watson agreed 50 ROs looked likely, and said this may simplify the process.
Professor Pringle said revalidation remained on track to go ahead on schedule.