Feature Continuing medical education

What price education?

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2333 (Published 31 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2333
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist and consultant
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}btinternet.com

    The Department of Health’s decision to give the royal colleges money to develop the tools for the recertification of doctors and to develop online learning programmes has been controversial, as Nigel Hawkes reports

    Who will keep tomorrow’s doctors up to date? Everybody talks about the need for continuing medical education, but its actual delivery has so far lacked coherent organisation. The long promised advent of revalidation in the United Kingdom has sharpened a debate about the roles of the medical schools, the royal colleges, the drug companies, and the private sector in ensuring that doctors are given opportunities, throughout their careers, for maintaining and enhancing their skills. But who is to set the standards, judge the outcomes, and, most important, pay the bills?

    Without announcement—and without seeking competitive tenders—the Department of Health has decided to give the royal colleges a key role. Revalidation and its enthusiastic pursuit by the chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, have provided new opportunities for the colleges to expand their remit. Cash from the Department of Health is lubricating the process.

    The latest accounts of the Academy of the Royal Medical Colleges show that its income, after ticking away for years in the range of £200 000-300 000 a year, soared to over £2.5 million in the year ending September 2007. Since then it has received a further £2.4m from the department, with the hint of more to come, should it be needed.

    From this pool, the royal colleges are each entitled to claim £50 000 as of right, and to bid for more, either alone or in partnerships. The money is intended to help them develop tools for the recertification of doctors, but not to cover actual implementation. The role of the academy is to act as a clearing house and to coordinate spending so as to …

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