Open Access Open Badges Research article

Can GPs working in secure environments in England re-license using the Royal College of General Practitioners revalidation proposals?

Jane Coomber1, Rodger Charlton2*, Jill E Thistlethwaite3 and Liz England4

Author affiliations

1 Primary Care Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

2 Division of Primary Care, School of Community Health Sciences, The Medical School University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK

3 Director of the Centre for Medical Education Research and Scholarship, The University of Queensland School of Medicine, 288 Herston Rd, Herston, 4006, Qld, Australia

4 Primary Care Clinical Sciences School of Health and Population Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:123  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-123

Published: 20 December 2012



Revalidation for UK doctors is expected to be introduced from late 2012. For general practitioners (GPs), this entails collecting supporting information to be submitted and assessed in a revalidation portfolio every five years. The aim of this study was to explore the feasibility of GPs working in secure environments to collect supporting information for the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) proposed revalidation portfolio.


We invited GPs working in secure environments in England to submit items of supporting information collected during the previous 12 months using criteria and standards required for the proposed RCGP revalidation portfolio and complete a GP issues log. Initial focus groups and initial and follow-up semi-structured face-to-face and telephone interviews were held to explore GPs’ views of this process. Quantitative and qualitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics and identifying themes respectively.


Of the 50 GPs who consented to participate in the study, 20 submitted a portfolio. Thirty-eight GPs participated in an initial interview, nine took part in a follow-up interview and 17 completed a GP issues log. GPs reported difficulty in collecting supporting information for valid patient feedback, full-cycle clinical audits and evidence for their extended practice role(s) as sessional practitioners in the high population turnover custodial environment. Peripatetic practitioners experienced more difficulty than their institution based counterparts collating this evidence.


GPs working in secure environments may experience difficulties in collecting the newer types of supporting information for the proposed RCGP revalidation portfolio primarily due to their employment status within a non-medical environment and characteristics of the detainee population. Increased support from secure environment service commissioners and employers will be a prerequisite for these practitioners to enable them to re-license using the RCGP revalidation proposals.

Revalidation; Re-licensing; Medical continuing professional development; General practitioners; Family physicians; Sessional GPs; Salaried GPs; Secure environments; Prisons