Objective To explore the experiences and impact of implementing a primary care workforce development strategy on appraisal, personal development plans (PDPs) and identification of continuing professional development (CPD) needs for health professionals in primary care.Design Formative explorative evaluation based on semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Setting Primary care trusts and general practitioner (GP) practices in South East England. Results Appraisals were used as the primary mechanism to identify not only the CPD needs of individuals but also to link them strategically to particular roles within the organisation and to the needs of the practice setting. Recipients of the strategy generally expressed a favourable opinion of the appraisal process. Implementing a workforce development strategy across three health economies provided a number of challenges. A number of creative methods were described to support the training of appraisers,and the implementation of appraisal and professional development plans.Conclusions The results from this study suggest that the choice and skills of the appraiser have an important impact on the outcome of the process.Successful management of appraisal implementation,including the training and support of differentprofessional groups, is an important goal in achieving changes in practice to deliver a quality service. A mixture of conventional and innovative approaches to support both appraisal training and implementation can be used with varying degrees of success.Generating effective personal and practice development plans (PPDPs) linked to individual appraisal is a priority for the future.