There are 56,000 GPs earmarked to be revalidated in five years, starting in April 2011.
College revalidation lead Professor Mike Pringle said that if the target was not reached in the first year, more GPs would have to be revalidated in 2012/13 to catch up.
He told GP: ‘We had been working on the basis of 15, 000 a year so the numbers are actually lower than we expected.
‘We will probably not reach the full 12,000 quota in the first year but we will have to have a very significant throughput and then add on any not done to the following year.'
The cohort of early adopter GPs who are piloting the system will be the first to be formally recommended for revalidation by the GMC.
Otherwise, the college is hoping that primary care organisations (PCOs) will consult with local GPs to decide when they join the process.
‘The current thinking is that PCOs will discuss with their doctors which years they want to go in. Some PCOs will put a fifth of their doctors through every year, while others will want to front load and get it over with - and of course some GPs will want to do the same.
‘But some PCOs will not have the systems in place and will want to wait. But if one year is overloaded, we will have to work with them to ensure a reasonable distribution.'
In the first year, the RCGP intends to work with PCOs that have good-quality clinical governance systems, a track record of effective annual appraisals and an appointed responsible officer.
Professor Pringle is confident that the start date of April 2011 will be met but said that the pilots would have to be successfully completed, the lessons learned, and ‘the whole system ready to go'.
Key issues to be resolved include the organisation and capacity of remediation services, the overall funding of revalidation, and any issues arising from a change of government.
Professor Pringle said the main funding issue was the cost of remediation and that the GPC would need to be involved.
In terms of the forthcoming General Election he said: ‘At the moment the government is very much behind revalidation and we have every reason to expect that to continue. It would be a very strange decision for any government to drop a system that's geared towards patient safety, quality assurance and reassuring the public.'