How do we check doctors are giving good care?
Doctors must regularly show us that they’re giving good care to patients and keeping up to date – through a process called revalidation. This is how doctors keep their licence to work in the UK. Patients have an important role in this.
How does revalidation work?
All doctors with a licence collect examples of their work to understand what they’re doing well and how they can improve. An important part of this is checking what their patients think about the care they give. Doctors collect:
- feedback from their patients and from people they work with
- what they’ve learnt from training they’ve completed
- what they’ve learnt if something has gone wrong
- any complaints about them.
Every year, doctors review and discuss their work with a specially trained doctor (called an appraiser). They agree a plan for how the doctor can improve and build on what they do well during the next year. For example, by doing some more training.
How is this checked?
Experienced senior doctors (called responsible officers) work with us to make sure doctors are reviewing their work. Responsible officers also regularly receive other information about the doctor’s work from their employer.
If the doctor needs extra support, or if there are any serious problems, the responsible officer takes action to address this straight away.
Every five years, the responsible officer tells us whether the doctor is keeping up to date and giving good care. Based on this, we decide if the doctor can keep their licence.
How can patients get involved?
Your doctor wants you to share your experiences of being cared for, so they know how they are doing. You might not be able to assess the doctor’s medical skills, but you can say, for example, how well they listened to you or explained what they were doing.
Here’s what you can do.
- Take part if you’re asked to give feedback about a doctor. You don't have to say who you are and your doctor won’t see your individual response. We have a .
- Let doctors know how they’re doing at any time. For example, you could send a ‘thank you’ card or letter.
- If you haven’t had good care, you can raise a concern about a doctor. Often the best way to get a resolution is to raise this directly with the place where you were treated. Our patient help tool tells you more about raising a concern.
- Join your local patient group, if you want to get more involved. Contact your local healthcare organisation (such as your GP practice or local hospital) to find out more.
- You can see how two hospitals involve patients in their revalidation processes in our case studies.
- Read the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges' report, Lay involvement in revalidation. This report identifies the different roles lay people have in the revalidation process and highlights the benefits and challenges to doing this.
Why is revalidation important?
Revalidation gives confidence to patients that their doctor is being regularly checked by a senior doctor and by us. It helps doctors improve the care they give and to address any problems early.