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European regulation of continuing professional development won’t improve quality of care

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 01 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5229
  1. Janet Grant, honorary professor, University College London Medical School; visiting professor, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry; professor emerita of education in medicine, Open University, UK; director, Centre for Medical Education in Context (CenMEDIC) and FAIMER Centre for Distance Learning, Middlesex TW12 2EB, UK,
  2. Thomas Zilling, vice president, Association Européenne des Médecins des Hôpitaux (European Association of Senior Hospital Physicians), Rue Guimard 15, Brussels B-1040, Belgium; associate professor of surgery, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to: J Grant janet{at}

There’s much more to CPD than credits for courses and conferences. Where’s the evidence that the EU’s approach will lead to better outcomes, ask Thomas Zilling and Janet Grant

The recently updated European Union directive on the recognition of professional qualifications contains clauses regarding continuing professional development (CPD) for healthcare personnel with the intention of improving patient safety.1

But an EU regulation that attempts to monitor and control CPD by collecting credits may have the perverse consequence of decreased relevant learning and a negligible effect on healthcare quality. When CPD is informed by political imperative rather than by professional practice we risk the focus moving to compliance with regulations and away from locally driven, professionally effective processes of deciding where and how clinicians or teams should develop their own practice to serve patients better.

Mandatory or voluntary CPD?

Political interventions in CPD seem to assume that healthcare staff do not take responsibility for keeping abreast of patient and health service needs, as well as of the emerging knowledge in their disciplines. Why else would we require a directive demanding proof of CPD?

But no robust evidence shows that a bureaucratic, mandatory CPD system …

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