Revalidation of our doctors sounds just like appraisals

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Why use a straightforward, easily-recognisable word or phrase when a fancy new one will let you hoodwink people into thinking you’re reinventing the wheel?

It’s debatable whether health secretary Jeremy Hunt and his aides realised that’s what they were doing when they announced plans to give doctors annual check-ups and full assessments every five years.

And yet the plans for revalidation sound an awful lot like appraisals – a scheme most UK workers will recognise, if not relish.

Is it that doctors think they’re so important that the bog-standard word for an employer keeping tabs on your performance is too ordinary for the work they do?

Or are politicians just naturally programmed to dream up a new name for every new policy? Are they in fact like candidates on The Apprentice, who often appear to enjoy coming up with a name for their team more than the actual tasks?

You can’t blame anyone for preferring to spend their time barking words such as ‘vitality’ and ‘phoenix’ at each other, rather than peddling cheap tea towels and mops to disinterested office workers.

But we can expect our MPs to do more with their days than indulge in a spot of The Thick Of It-style brainstorming.

Putting aside the revalidation term for a minute, we should question whether our doctors really need to be put under a regulated system of scrutineering.

Many checks and balances are already in place to ensure patients get the best possible care they need.

If you’re unhappy, there are complaint procedures in place. If a doctor does something wrong, the General Medical Council has powers to act.

As an employer, the NHS already has a responsibility to keep a close eye on all its staff, offering support when issues crop up and consequences when things should have been handled better.

In reality, Hunt’s revalidation is unlikely to be unpopular with voters. Who doesn’t want to know they and their loved ones are getting good care?

But we should be wary of any policy designed to flatter us into thinking revolutionary things are being done.