UK Policy on Doctor Remediation: Trajectories and Challenges

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Around the world, policy-makers, academics, and health service professionals have become increasingly aware of the importance of remediation, the process by which poor performance is “remedied,” as part of the changing landscape of medical regulation. It is, therefore, an opportune time to critique the UK experience with remediation policy. This article frames, for the first time, the UK remediation policy as developing from a central policy aim that was articulated in the 1990s: to accelerate the identification of underperformance and, subsequently, remedy any problems identified as soon as possible. In pursuit of this aim, three policy trajectories have emerged: professionalizing and standardizing remediation provision; linking remediation with other forms of regulation, namely relicensure (known in the UK as medical revalidation); and fostering obligations for doctors to report themselves and others for remediation needs. The operationalization of policy along these trajectories, and the challenges that have arisen, has relevance for anyone seeking to understand or indeed improve remediation practices within any health care system. It is argued here that the UK serves as an example of the more general challenges posed by seeking to integrate remediation policy within broader frameworks of medical governance, in particular systems of relicensure, and the need to develop a solid evidence base for remediation practices.

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