COVID-19 and professional standards activities (including appraisal and revalidation)



Publication approval reference: BC0108


  • All Responsible Officers and Medical Directors in England

19 March 2020

Dear Colleague

I am writing about changes to professional standards activities in light of the latest Government advice on managing the COVID-19 outbreak. Professional standards activities safeguard patient safety and quality of care, support professional development and ensure that action is taken when concerns arise. However, in the current situation it is entirely appropriate to modify processes to maintain essential care and minimise spread.

Medical appraisal

As National Responsible Officer for NHS England and NHS Improvement and the person who delegates the Senior Responsible Owner function for The Medical Profession (Responsible Officers) Regulations 2010 (amended 2013) in England, I strongly recommend that appraisals are suspended from the date of this letter until a further announcement has been made on this topic, unless there are exceptional circumstances agreed by both the appraisee and appraiser. This should immediately increase capacity in our workforce by allowing appraisers to return to clinical practice.

Until reinstated, responsible officers should classify appraisals which are affected as ‘approved missed’ appraisals. For clarity, affected appraisals will be regarded as cancelled, not postponed.

Revalidation recommendations

The medical revalidation process is primarily the remit of the GMC. We are in ongoing discussions about deferral of revalidation with GMC colleagues and a further announcement on this will be forthcoming in due course.

In the meantime, for those doctors where appraisal has been cancelled and a recommendation is due, responsible officers are reminded that they may make a positive recommendation if the required supporting information has otherwise been presented earlier in the doctor’s revalidation cycle.

At the same time, doctors can be reassured that deferral is a neutral act and has no impact on their ability to practise as normal.

Framework for Quality Assurance for Responsible Officers and Revalidation

In keeping with the need to minimise non-direct quality improvement activities, we have decided to cancel the 2019/2020 Annual Organisation Audit, which we had planned to launch on 6 April.

Mandatory and other non-essential activities

Other measures to release clinical capacity and allow focus on the current priority include amending local requirements for mandatory training and other CPD and quality improvement activities not directly relevant to the current outbreak. I encourage responsible officers to work within their organisations to make sensible changes in these areas.

Responding to concerns about a doctor’s practice

Oversight of professional concerns must continue, but as the situation evolves, our priority will be those concerns that are assessed as high risk.

I know that you and your teams are working hard to prepare for the challenge of the coming weeks and months and hope that these measures will help you and your clinicians to focus on best possible care for patients for the duration of this outbreak.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Stephen Powis | National Medical Director | NHS England and NHS Improvement