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Revalidation will ‘improve care and cut legal costs’

The £100m yearly cost of revalidating doctors should pay for itself in 10 years, a Department of Health study has shown.

Revalidation, due to begin in December following the confirmation by health secretary Jeremy Hunt last month that it can go ahead, will subject doctors to ‘fit to practise’ checks.

The implementation of annual assessments and detailed checks every five years for all doctors will consequently improve patient care and reduce compensation claims, although the Government warns that this could also result in the reluctance of a large number of experienced NHS medics to be tested.

The Government proposes that the costs of these checks, which amount to around £100m annually, will be far surpassed by the benefits to patients and the profession and will save nearly £1bn over 10 years.

The study illustrates that revalidation would avoid the death or harm of about one in a hundred patients and equally that the cost of litigation in malpractice cases would be reduced dramatically. This latter point is significant as the DH has underlined the fact that payouts for medical mistakes rocketed from £400m in 2003 to £860m in 2011.

The report states: “The prevention of deaths and incidents of harm, as well as the introduction of a stronger culture of accountability, is expected to result in fewer incidents that would lead to litigation payouts. The data showed that a 3% reduction in future payouts as a result of revalidation can be anticipated.”

Nevertheless, the DH acknowledges that the new system – which some experienced doctors privately see as intrusive and patronising – means that “some doctors may choose to leave the system rather than undergo appraisal and revalidation processes that would be new to them”. It adds: “This may particularly be the case for older doctors, who would take with them many years of experience and expertise.”

Health minister Dan Poulter, who continues to work weekly as a hospital doctor, stated that the UK is the first country planning to assess its doctors and highlighted the importance of the benefits of the projected scheme.

Writing in the Guardian, he argued: “The evidence published today shows that this cost is outweighed by the enormous benefits that regular fitness to practise reviews will bring – increased trust in doctors, safer care, fewer claims for clinical negligence and positive cultural change in the profession.”

Poulter also emphasised that revalidation would tackle the problem of malpractice whilst allowing all doctors to improve the services they provide and their relationships with patients.

The Government also plans to review doctors working in the private sector and outside of the NHS. This goes hand in hand with an expectation of extra costs for private health, although the Government stresses that the patients would receive further benefits as a result.

Revalidation will be carried out by the General Medical Council, who will examine a dossier comprised of annual assessments and patient questionnaires illustrating the competence of the doctor over a five-year period.

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Martin Wyatt   07/11/2012 at 23:02

Excellent, well written article. Enjoyed reading!

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