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Revalidation: Clare Barton of the GMC answers your questions

08 May 2017

Clare Barton, Assistant Director of Revalidation at the General Medical Council

With revalidation now in its fifth year, Clare Barton, Assistant Director of Revalidation at the General Medical Council answered some of our members’ questions on the process. If you have any other questions, please respond in the comments section below.


How many patients do you have to see on a monthly basis, in order to be able to be revalidated? Could a surgeon do one clinic a month so they can say they are still in clinical practice?


There are no GMC requirements that relate to the number of sessions worked in any particular scope of work.


Our requirements for revalidation are more flexible than you might think, for example we don’t require doctors to collect a particular number of CPD points, or to work a minimum number of hours. The key thing is that a doctor reflects on how they keep up-to-date at what they do, how they review their practice, and how they gain and respond to feedback from colleagues and patients about what they do (as well as reporting and reflecting on all complaints and significant events). This is the requirement for any part of a doctor’s scope of work, no matter how little time is spent on it.


It may be difficult to achieve all those different types of supporting information in relation to only one or two sessions per year worked in a particular role but, with careful planning, it is not impossible.


You should discuss this with your appraiser and your Responsible Officer so you can come to an agreement about how much clinical work is needed to remain up to date and fit to practise.


What about those who are planning to stop clinical practice for a short time period, for example, surgeons volunteering abroad, or those on maternity leave? Would they have to return to the UK for their revalidation?


We advise doctors who are planning to stop clinical practice and are not doing work in the UK that needs a licence, for more than 12 months, to relinquish their licence. See our website for more information on how to do that. Once you have relinquished your licence you do not need to participate in revalidation.


But before you relinquish your licence you must check the following:

  • Employer requirements – especially for maternity leave;
  • Trainee requirements – relinquishing your licence will mean you lose your national training number;
  • Insurance and indemnity cover – our guidance is here.

Getting your licence back is straightforward – see our guidance. If you are working abroad the GMC advises you to read the guidance before you go so that you know what documentation you need to get from the countries you have been working in.


If you retain your licence while taking a break from practice you still need to engage with revalidation. Doctors not in clinical practice can and do participate in appraisal and can revalidate. How you do this will depend on whether you have a connection to a designated body (DB). Use our tool to see if you have a connection to a designated body.


If you have a connection to a DB you will need to check with your Responsible Officer about their expectations for your appraisal and revalidation while you are out of clinical practice. They will support you through the process and explain what supporting information you will need to collect and reflect on at your appraisal.


If you do not have a connection to a DB and you retain your licence you will need to continue to collect the required supporting information and reflect on it at your annual appraisal. You will need to provide this information to the GMC as part of your annual return when asked to. There are independent appraisal organisations that can provide appraisals for doctors without a connection. Appraisals can be conducted via Skype (or alternative) but the GMC recommends that the first appraisal should take place in person. See our web page for more information.


I am a doctor but I don’t undertake a clinical role. My employer is demanding that I have a licence to practise. Is this fair? How can I explain to them what the requirements are?


An employer is entitled to specify the requirements for a role and this might include having a licence to practise. Doctors not in clinical practice can revalidate and the GMC guidance is flexible to support doctors in all roles to revalidate. If the role is in medical management or leadership, the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management will be able to provide guidance for revalidation.


Depending on how a doctor is employed the requirement to have a licence might mean the employer becomes a DB. If they are a DB then the organisation has a legal requirement to appoint a Responsible Officer to support their doctors with their revalidation. There is information for employers and Responsible Officers here. This also includes guidance on what revalidation means and the requirements a doctor will need to meet.


You can check whether you would have a connection here.


If the employment status means the organisation is not a designated body then a doctor will need to revalidate as a doctor without a connection. There is more information here.


If an organisation requires you to have a licence but is not your designated body you may want to discuss whether they can support you with the costs of your appraisal and revalidation assessment.


If your role doesn’t include providing clinical care it might be worth discussing with your employer what having a licence to practise actually means, and the difference between being registered and having a licence to practise. You should ensure your employer understands what you would need to do to have a licence to practise, and the support you would need from them.


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