SENIOR doctors are for the first time being required to undertake continuing education to keep them up to date, writes Nicholas Timmins.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists yesterday announced that it is making continuing education compulsory for its 2,500 members and fellows from the start of this year - although it will take five years for the system to bite fully.
To qualify as a specialist and NHS consultant, doctors have to pass the Royal College's exams. But from this year those who are already members and fellows will have to undertake a minimum of 200 hours' continuing education a year to be included in a Roll of Trained Specialists which the college will start publishing in five years' time.
Activities which will count as continuing education are broad - ranging from auditing their work to contributing to medical journals or taking part in approved meetings.
Doctors who do not participate will not be included in the roll of specialists, will not be eligible for NHS merit awards which can raise a consultant's salary by anything between 30 and 100 per cent, and will not be able to act in any official capacity on behalf of the college, including examining.
Members are being warned that their defence in legal or professional conduct cases could be prejudiced if they cannot show they have kept their education up to date.
The college is putting the requirement not just on NHS consultants, but those in private practice, who are partly retired and who are involved in medico-legal work. 'Continuing medical education and best practice are complementary,' the college said.