Doctors to undergo “fit to practise” checks in biggest medical shake up in 150 years
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce today that doctors are to be given yearly checks and 5-yearly comprehensive assessments to ensure that they remain fit to practise medicine.
Currently, doctors may not face a single assessment during their medical careers. The move marks the largest change in medical regulation seen in 150 years, according to the General Medical Council (GMC), and sees the end of over ten years of negotiation on the matter.
The evaluations of senior doctors will begin in December, and the scheme will be rolled out to all doctors by April 2013. The move has been being discussed since the investigation into serial killer GP Harold Shipman, who killed over 250 of his patients.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has greeted the prospective scheme with some reservation. Chair of the BMA Council, Dr Mark Porter, said: “The BMA has always supported the principle of revalidation. There is too much bureaucracy in the NHS and so we have to be careful that revalidation does not add to this unnecessarily. But we still need to ensure consistency across the UK so that all doctors are working to the same standards.”
Other medical professionals have agreed that the system will need time to develop, but have praised the idea. NHS Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh, said: “My personal view is that it is better to start than wait for perfection. I think that every doctor has a duty to be able to describe what they do and to define how well they do it.”
The government’s medical reforms proposals will cost between £1.5-1.6 billion, which is over £300 million more than had previously been estimated. This in itself has drawn criticisms from health professionals. Rachel Maskell, head of health at British trade union Unite, said: “”The money spent on the reorganisation of the NHS[…]would have been better spent on frontline services for the sick and the ill.”
However, the Health Department has rebuffed such claims, saying in a statement that: “These are one-off costs. By investing in these changes we will be able to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and free up extra resources – £5.5bn during this parliament and £1.5 bn every year thereafter – for patient care.”