Being a practising GP in the UK, the General Medical Council (GMC) requires you to demonstrate you are up-to-date and fit to practice at five-yearly intervals in the form of a process called revalidation; this is based on evidence gathered as part of annual appraisals.
There are six types of supporting evidence a GP must collect to build their e-portfolio for an NHS appraisal, one of which is Continuing Professional Development (CPD). This article aims to provide you with insight into CPD credits and the RCGP appraisal process.
What is CPD?
CPD encompasses any formal or informal learning activities outside of your undergraduate or postgraduate training that aid in maintaining and improving your performance. It spans the development of your knowledge, skills, and behaviours across all areas of your professional practice.
There are no prescribed CPD courses or conferences. CPD training is a very broad term for any activity which is in line with global CPD principles. It includes:
You can apply for any of these activities to become accredited via the CPD Certification Service. They work with organisations ranging from small consultancy firms to large training providers, multinational corporations, conference and event organisers, universities, further education colleges, local authorities, as well as councils and government departments.
Additionally, the RCGP offers a vast range of learning resources to aid GPs with their continual professional development, including eLearning courses, conferences, webinars, as well as an Essential Knowledge Updates (EKUs) programme which provides the latest knowledge relevant to practice.
CPD activities you may undertake are usually categorised into three types:
Structured CPD (active learning) is interactive, proactive, and participation-based. It can include attending a training course, conference, workshop, seminar, lecture, e-learning course, or CPD-certified event. CPD active learning also applies to when professionals take career-orientated exams and assessments.
Reflective learning (passive learning) involves no participant-based interaction and is much more one-directional. Examples of this include reading relevant news articles, podcasts, case studies, and industry updates. Some informal meetings can be documented as reflective learning, but the learning objectives must be made clear.
Self-directed learning (unstructured learning) involves all unaccompanied CPD activities. It covers the reading of documents, articles and publications, either in print or online. Reading relevant publications, books by leading experts, industry journals and trade magazines, as well as industry-specific news feeds or research are all types of self-directed CPD. Study and revision for career-relevant exams would also be considered self-directed learning.
How to calculate CPD points?
Although different professional bodies and associations may use different terminology to quantify your CPD, such as ‘CPD points’, ‘CPD units’, or ‘CPD credits’, they all simply refer to CPD hours, which is the actual time spent on CPD activities.
For example, attending a CPD conference taking place from 9am to 5pm with a 1-hour break gains you 7 CPD hours. Where the terms CPD points, units, or credits are used, a ratio may be provided; this is typically 1:1, i.e. 1 CPD credit equals 1 CPD hour.
GP Appraisal Process
The appraisal process consists of three stages:
Inputs into appraisal; supporting evidence as outlined by the GMC must be submitted at least two weeks before the appraisal meeting.
Confidential appraisal discussion; this will be conducted with a colleague who is also trained as an appraiser.
Outputs from appraisal; the appraiser writes a summary of the discussion and confirms whether the appraisal was satisfactory. Together, the appraisee and appraiser also devise a personal development plan for the upcoming year.
GP Appraisal Requirements
Good Medical Practice requires you to have completed a minimum of 250 hours of CPD over one revalidation cycle. However, this does not mean you must complete a fixed 50 hours for your annual appraisal; this, nevertheless, tends to be the average.
Do not be tempted to overdo your CPD credits to impress the appraiser as they may deem that time better spent on your patients, family, or relaxation. Nor should you cease reflecting and learning once you hit your target if you wish to keep your practice safe and up-to-date; you do not need to document every single learning activity.
Do not expect your appraiser to review huge amounts of supporting information over and above what is required. Try to create sensible habits that make your documentation simple, using the knowledge and skills of your appraiser to help you.
You are responsible for completing your own CPD; that is, identifying CPD needs for your practice, planning how you will address those needs, and undertaking relevant CPD activities. Reflection within appraisal documentation lies at the heart of the GMC and RCGP, and you should reflect on your CPD needs in terms of the domains of Good Medical Practice. These are as follows:
Knowledge, skills, and behaviours
Safety and quality
Communication, partnership, and teamwork
You must consider all areas of your practice, including clinical and non-clinical aspects, such as management, research, or teaching responsibilities. When considering your learning needs, you should also take into account the needs of your patients and your team and be receptive to their advice; this includes asking for feedback from patients and colleagues.
GP Appraisal Toolkits
Appraisal documentation is not accepted in paper form and must be completed electronically. There are multiple accepted online platforms across England to support you with your appraisal. GP appraisal toolkits include:
In the rest of the UK, on the other hand, each home nation has its own single platform in place:
The Scottish Online Appraisal Resource (SOAR) in Scotland.
The Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA) in Northern Ireland.
The Medical Appraisal and Revalidation System (MARS) in Wales.
Continuing Professional Development - Guidance for all doctors. General Medical Council. http://www.gpappraisals.uk/uploads/4/5/8/5/4585426/continuing_professional_development_guidance_for_all_doctors_gmc_2002.pdf
The CPD Certification Service.
Learning. Royal College of General Practitioners.
Revalidation. General Medical Council.
Appraisal and Revalidation. Royal College of General Practitioners.
Medical Appraisals. British Medical Association.
Medical Appraisal Guide (MAG). NHS England.