"No one has yet properly articulated what we are trying to achieve": a discourse analysis of interviews with revalidation policy leaders in the United Kingdom

Acad Med. 2015 Jan;90(1):88-93. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000464.


Purpose: To analyze prevailing definitions of revalidation (i.e., a recently instituted system of ongoing review for all physicians in the United Kingdom), the circumstances of their origin, and proposed applications, after a protracted and sometimes difficult decade in development. This was to support a more consensual approach to revalidation policy before its launch in 2012.

Method: In 2010 and 2011, the authors carried out a critical discourse analysis of interviews with 31 medical and legal revalidation policy makers. These individuals represented the main stakeholder bodies, including the General Medical Council, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, British Medical Association, National Health Service Employers, and the departments of health from across the United Kingdom.

Results: The authors identified two overarching discourses: regulation and professionalism, held together by patients as "discursive glue." Regulation frames revalidation as a way to identify "bad apples," requiring a summative approach and minimum standards. Professionalism looks to revalidation as a process by which all doctors improve, requiring evolving standards and a developmental model.

Conclusions: These two discourses were not mutually exclusive; indeed, most interviewees used them interchangeably. However, they are in some regards at odds. Their coexistence has been supported by a shared discursive formation around patients. Yet the authors found little patient-centered policy in revalidation in its current form. The authors concluded that patients need to be recognized, making them present with an active voice. They also stressed the importance of established and ongoing evaluation of medical regulation as a policy and process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Certification / standards*
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Employee Performance Appraisal
  • Humans
  • Physicians / standards*
  • Public Policy
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • State Medicine
  • United Kingdom