David Kidney, Chief Executive of the UK Public Health Register (UKPHR)

David Kidney, Chief Executive of the UK Public Health Register (UKPHR), considers the importance of  revalidation and how it will impact on the quality of public health practice carried out by the public health workforce.

Revalidation is a coming force for good in public health. It has its immediate origin in the statutory scheme for revalidation of doctors operated by the General Medical Council. But both UKPHR and the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) recognised its importance and began work on revalidation schemes of our own. For nurses, NMC is now operating revalidation. For public health registrants of UKPHR, revalidation will probably start in 2018.

Why have revalidation at all? For me, the starting point has to be that any form of regulation is put in place first and foremost to protect the public from harm. In support of their public protection role, regulators ought, in my view, have two complementary aims in mind: one, making sure that the individuals being regulated are fit to practise and two, continuous improvement of practice by individuals and the whole system alike.

So careful checks on registrants at their point of entry into regulation are necessary so that regulators can assure their competence (in other words give assurance to the public and to employers and commissioners of services that registrants are fit to practise).

But what then? Once within the regulated community, what is it about the system of regulation that keeps registrants competent – keeps them fit to practice and focused on continuous improvement of their and other’s practice?

Today’s regulators tend to be focused on not one answer to these twin aims but rather a range of strategies. They certainly include Continuing Professional Development (CPD), a requirement to keep on learning and gaining relevant experiences and reflecting on the effect of new learning and new experiences.

They also involve openness and transparency by regulators themselves; this helps educate the public, employers and commissioners about the benefits of regulation and makes it easier for interested parties to contact the register.

Contact might be to check someone is regulated, raise a concern about a registrant or potentially make a complaint. Such contacts in turn might be useful sources of intelligence for regulators in their public protection role.

Revalidation is one more strategy designed to give assurance that, since achieving registration, registrants have maintained and enhanced their competence. In UKPHR’s case, revalidation is intended to be a 5-yearly check that the requisite level of competence has been maintained or improved on.

It will involve confirmation that CPD has been undertaken, professional appraisal has been carried out, personal development planning is taking place and quality of service is being improved.

Introducing revalidation is a major undertaking for a small organisation like UKPHR, but our Board judges that it is an essential step forward for the whole public health system. Revalidation is a critical development for UKPHR and, I believe, for the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of public health practice carried out by members of the core public health workforce.

As introducing revalidation is a major challenge for UKPHR, we are keeping stakeholders informed of progress regularly in accordance with a communications plan we devised for this purpose. If any reader would like to know more about UKPHR’s revalidation scheme and the progress we are making towards introducing it, do please feel free to contact me.