Colleges review continuing medical education

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 08 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:80

All doctors in career grades in Britain are being recommended to comply with a new programme of continuing medical education (CME) launched by the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom. The programme, which started this week, specifies that all consultant physicians, associate specialists, and staff grade doctors should undertake a minimum of 50 hours of approved continuing medical education activities each year.

These activities will have to be logged in a specially designed personal diary. At the end of the year doctors will each have to fill in a summary document of their activities and submit it for approval to the appropriate royal college.


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Although the new scheme is voluntary, the colleges have made it clear that they regard participation as a professional obligation. “We will do random spot checks on the diaries and keep a whitelist of doctors who comply with the requirements,” said Professor Sir Lesley Turnberg, president of the Royal College of Physicians of London. “There will be consequences for those who fail to get on it without good reason. In our view, consultants who do not participate in the wide range of opportunities that there are for CME are not likely to be suitable to train junior doctors. If we have clear evidence that they are not following our recommendations on CME they will have their facilities to train juniors removed.”

The colleges' scheme, which is in line with similar schemes that have been set up or are in the process of being developed by the other royal colleges, acknowledges that continuing medical education comes in many shapes and forms. Thus the requirements stipulate that the 50 hours should include a mixture of “internal” and “external” activities. Internal activities are primarily local activities such as attendance at hospital grand rounds and audit meetings. Examples of external activities include college or society based clinical meetings, workshops, and symposiums specifically held for continuing medical education.

Self directed learning activities, such as exchange visits between peers, research, independent study, and small study group work, are increasingly seen as effective ways to learn. Such activities can be approved for credits for continuing medical education under the new scheme, provided that they are agreed beforehand with the regional royal college adviser.

Sir Lesley Turnberg said: “The advantage of putting CME on this formal basis is that it sends a clear signal both to doctors and to hospital managers that this is a necessary activity. I think most managers are supportive of CME in principle but they are very concerned about the cost. It's not so much the cost of going to meetings but of providing continuous cover for patients' care.--TESSA RICHARDS, BMJ

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