Doctors skills are to be reassessed every year to ensure they are fit to practise, the General Medical Council said.

At present, doctors can go for their entire career without facing any formal assessment of their competency.

But from December this year, doctors will be assessed to see if they are fit to stay on the medical register, the GMC said.

This would take the form of an annual appraisal and a more comprehensive meeting every five years, if the scheme is approved by the Health Secretary.

Doctors will be expected to demonstrate they meet clinical standards and have kept up to speed with the latest developments in their field, while appraisals will include feedback from patients and colleagues.

Audits of how patients fare after seeing their doctor will also be included, alongside a requirement to ensure there are no causes for concern in the way a doctor works.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “Revalidation is on its way.

“From the end of this year we will begin to tell each doctor the date when he or she will be expected to revalidate. We are entering a new phase - after years of discussion about the principle, the reality of revalidation is imminent.

“We will be ready to start delivering revalidation from the end of this year and we are confident that the healthcare systems across the UK will also be ready. Now is the time to get on with this.”