Blazing a trail as the first country to introduce such a scheme, Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, announced today that the new structure of revalidation for doctors in the United Kingdom would be live from December 2012.

Based on a 5 year cycle, the system is modelled on annual appraisals together with a requirement to submit other information to demonstrate continuing fitness to practise, such as feedback from patients and colleagues.  Evidence of Continuing Professional Development will also be required.

From an individual doctor’s point of view, there may well be some feeling of trepidation about the administrative burden that the new requirements might entail, although once the system is established, it should serve the dual purpose of being a valuable self-audit process.  The duty to provide a good standard of care and the principle of personal accountability for professional practice is, of course, nothing new to doctors.  However, by introducing revalidation, the GMC is being very smart indeed in nudging the burden of regulation even further towards the “self”.

Getting into the habit of maintaining a file of information for submission during revalidation could also be of assistance to doctors for those rare occasions when complaints or concerns about their practice do reach the attention of the regulator.  It may well be easier for a doctor to respond to or defend any allegation when they have quick and easy recourse to such material.

The initial reaction?  So far so laudable.  One suspects a general consensus about the potential benefits to the reputation of the profession as a whole.  As ever, for those with an interest in professional standards and regulation, how the system beds in will be a subject to monitor.  One question that springs to mind is whether failures to effectively participate in or satisfy the revalidation requirements themselves could be “sufficient” as the subject of a fitness to practise allegation.  Watch this space.