Back in February, we published The way forward on specialist list assessed applications which provided an update on the work to get Specialist List Assessed Applications (SLAA) restarted.
At that time, the SLAA process had been paused for almost a year. We were working alongside the Specialty Advisory Committees (SACs) and Deans of the Royal Colleges to look at ways of improving the assessment process to ensure that it supports the efficient and effective assessment of applications. As part of this, we had decided that the GDC would start to administer the scheme directly – by using GDC-contracted associates to carry out the assessments.
The recruitment and onboarding of assessors
A lot has happened since then. We embarked on a large-scale recruitment campaign to find assessors with the right skills and experience to carry out assessments of applications. There was a lot of interest in the vacancies – we received 170 applications – and appointed 47 assessors across the different specialties.
Next followed a period of onboarding. We held a number of sessions at our offices where we worked with the new assessors to bring them on-board, and to develop the new assessment process.
Detailing the new assessment process
Under the new process, SLAA assessments are overseen by a panel of three assessors. The assessors are sent the applications to consider and make an individual recommendation before they meet as a panel to discuss them. Decisions are taken on a majority basis, although in reality, most panel decisions are unanimous after the initial meeting.
The panels are administered by two dedicated members of our Registration Team, who oversee every panel and record the outcome and the detailed justification for those decisions.
We held the first panel – for Oral Surgery applications – on 30 August. We have since held another four panels in various specialties, bringing the total number of applications assessed to 46. There are another four panels scheduled for the remainder of 2023, which will assess a further 63 applications. All being well, we will have assessed the majority of the outstanding applications by the end of 2023, and the entire backlog by March 2024.
Alongside restarting the assessments, we have been working with the SACs to improve the application materials for those wanting to apply for specialist listing using the SLAA route. The new application packs have now been published on our website here.
Improvements to the SLAA process continues
Our work on improving the SLAA process is not over. We will continue to work with our key stakeholders – including the Royal Colleges and SACs – to improve the operation of the assessment and appeals processes and consider whether changes to the formal rules which govern specialist list applications are needed to make the process fully effective. Some of the rules derive from European Union legislation which continues to apply in the UK, and we will continue to explore with the Department of Health and Social Care how those requirements might be amended as part of the Government’s wider work on reviewing the continued application of EU law in the UK.
Our number one priority is patient safety – making sure that only the right people with the right skills are put on the specialist lists. We also want to make sure that those who do have the right knowledge, skills and experience are able to access the lists. Subject to these, we want to make sure that the process is efficient and effective for the benefit of applicants, for the GDC and, ultimately for patients.