Doctors are to undergo regular tests of their ‘fitness to practice’ according to a recent announcement. However a government study suggests that the idea of testing is unpopular with doctors and will spark an exodus as large numbers of medics leave these shores for foreign climes where the weather is better and standards are less rigorous.
So what would the outcome of tests be? The aim is to raise standards of care across the board, improve patient care and reduce the cost to the NHS of negligent mistakes by a staggering £1bn over 10 years – not to mention the enormous cost to patients. We should bear in mind that most of the costs of Medical Negligence are born by patients and not the health service – only a minority of injured patients bring claims and those that do suffer losses in terms of pain and disability that money cannot put right. According to another recent study one in 100 patient deaths could be avoided as a result of revalidation.
If revalidation can produce this result there can be no doubt it should be introduced. Like all other forms of professional work, medicine is complex, new research is constantly being published and the need for updating is constant.
Will it lead to a great exodus? In reality doctors from all over the world come to work in our health service and the service would not function without them. I doubt that many doctors will find conditions as good in other parts of the world and the reality is that most people have strong family and local ties which outweigh the upheaval of moving abroad. It is not unusual to hear that a particular change will lead to a mass exodus but the reality is that it rarely happens. My predictions are more mundane. Revalidation will probably produce some modest improvements in patient care but neither save £1bn in 10 years nor prevent the deaths of one in 100 patients. The odd doctor may choose to work abroad – perhaps those nearing retirement and become resistant to change. But the migration of doctors to Britain will continue and there will be no exodus.
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