5,077 deferrals in GMC skills check

Thousands of doctors did not immediately pass a new set of skills checks during the first year of assessments, figures show.

The GMC has decided to "defer" the revalidation of more than 5,000 doctors

Thousands of doctors did not immediately pass a new set of skills checks during the first year of assessments, figures show.

The General Medical Council (GMC) said it decided to "defer" the revalidation of more than 5,000 doctors.

So-called responsible officers, who conduct the assessments, can recommend that a decision to revalidate doctors is deferred if a medic is subject to local disciplinary proceedings or if the doctor has been unable gather all the supporting evidence in time.

Since the process began a year ago, the GMC has agreed to defer the requests of 5,077 doctors from across the UK, including more than 1,000 GPs.

A GMC spokeswoman said that deferral requests give responsible officers more time to make a recommendation about a doctor.

Once a deferral request has been accepted, the responsible officers have a year to make a recommendation.

The GMC said so far nearly 25,000 doctors have been successfully revalidated - meaning they meet the appropriate clinical standards and are up to date with the latest medical advances.

When the measure was introduced last year it was described as the "biggest change in medical regulation for more than 150 years".

Before the revalidation process, doctors could go for their entire careers without facing any formal assessment of their competency. But now they face tests to see if they are fit to stay on the medical register.

The assessment takes the form of an annual appraisal - featuring input from patients - and a more comprehensive meeting every five years.

The UK was the first country in the world to introduce such a system across its whole healthcare system, covering GPs, hospital doctors, locums and those working in the independent sector.

"These are very early days but we are pleased with the progress made in the first year," said GMC chief executive Niall Dickson.

"This new system of checks is a world first and over time we believe it will make a significant contribution towards making sure patients in the UK receive safe, effective care.

"Already we see signs that it is making an impact with hospitals and other healthcare organisations recognising their responsibility, not only to make sure all their doctors have the attitude and skills to deliver high-quality care, but also that they have the support and information they need to assess and reflect on their practice.

"There is more to do but this is about supporting doctors to provide the best possible care and making sure patients can have confidence in the care their doctors provide. We will develop the model, and we will listen and learn from the experience of those who use it as we do so. But this is a good start."