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09-04-2012 | Article

Patient feedback – are you ready?

Over the past few months our attention has been focused on pensions, pay and conditions as well as the NHS reforms. Now that the reforms look likely to be realised, perhaps it is time to focus on other matters while still keeping track of these important issues. Of course, there is a never-ending avalanche of clinical matters to consider, as new research and guidelines continue to flood us from all angles. But another non-clinical issue is beginning to surface again, that of revalidation.

The word revalidation may cause a groan to emanate from some doctors. Whatever the reality, this is something we are going to have to do and we may as well approach it in a positive manner. In the 21st century we have to accept that the public wants reassurance that the medical profession is policing itself in a responsible and transparent manner. One element of revalidation that may be new to some of us is the use of feedback questionnaires. More information has recently been published about this, as covered in the univadis GP News service (click here). According to the article, "the GMC has published the feedback questionnaires that GPs will need to ask colleagues and patients to fill in under revalidation plans."

The article provides a link to further information on the General Medical Council website (click here). Plenty of documentation is available, with detailed instructions and questionnaires for colleagues and patients. It is well worth a look for anyone who is going to go through revalidation - in other words, the vast majority of us.

Like the NHS reforms, revalidation is coming so there is no point in sticking your head in the sand and hoping that it will go away. And using colleague and patient feedback could be interesting - after all, what do our colleagues and patients really think of us? I suspect it could inform our practice in a positive way and we should not feel threatened by it. This is progress and while it will take time it should produce interesting results. We are professionals and our activities should be transparent, especially in light of recent medical controversies such as the Shipman scandal. It is important that the general public is reassured that we are trying to put our house in order.

We have nothing to hide and it is essential that we calibrate our performance and this is just one facet of a complex effort to ensure that we remain effective, safe and knowledgeable. Assuming that the process is not hijacked and used merely as a tool to penalise doctors, but rather as an educational exercise to improve our performance, then it should be welcomed.

Best wishes,

Harry

Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief univadis

By Dr Harry Brown