Medical revalidation is set to come into force today (Monday 3 December 2012) for the UK's 230,000 licensed doctors.
In order to keep their licence to practise, doctors will now be required to revalidate on a regular basis - usually every five years.
The new system will be based on annual appraisals and information doctors will collect about their practice, including feedback from patients, doctors, nurses and other colleagues.
Kicking off the new checks, the General Medical Council (GMC) will begin writing to 13,000 doctors telling them when they will revalidate. The rest of the UK's licensed doctors are expected to receive their letters by the end of January 2013.
The GMC expects to revalidate the majority of licensed doctors by March 2016, with medical leaders expected to go first.
Professor Sir Peter Rubin, chair of the GMC, who will be one of the first doctors to revalidate, said: "This is an important day for doctors and patients. We are confident that over time revalidation will make a significant contribution to the quality of care that patients receive and should give them increased confidence that the doctors who treat them are up to date."
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter described today as "momentous".
However, chair of the British Medical Association Council Dr Mark Porter, warned there is still some work to do to ensure revalidation will be "workable" in practice and said the BMA will monitor whether the implementation of the process is "fair and consistent".
Furthermore, Stephen Dorrell, chair of the Health Committee, also warned doctors revalidation "is only the beginning" and called on the GMC to clarify as a matter of urgency – the arrangements for informing patients where a doctor has had to undertake remediation measures.
According to Allan Coffey, chief executive of the NHS Revalidation Support Team (RST), the vast majority of doctors in England (97%) are now covered by organisations that are ready to support them to revalidate with evidence suggesting doctors are already benefiting from the improved systems that have come in anticipation of revalidation.
"The RST continues to work closely with the SHA clusters to support the few designated bodies that need to make further progress and to develop strategies to support groups of doctors that experience particular challenges in preparing for revalidation" he said.