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Does appraisal enhance learning, improve practice and encourage continuing professional development? A survey of general practitioners’ experiences of appraisal

Background Revalidation of the medical profession is under review and a system has been proposed to ensure doctors meet standards of practice and professionalism. The current appraisal system allows clinicians to chart their progress and identify developmental needs in order to improve performance. Appraisal is now an annual compulsory requirement for all doctors.Aim and objectives The aim of the study was to investigate the experiences of general practitioners (GPs) of the current appraisal process. The specific objectives were to consider the impact the appraisal process had exerted on their learning, practice and individual continuing professional development (CPD).Methods We employed a cross-sectional design using a postal questionnaire sent to all doctors who work as GPs (n = 385) in West Kent.Main results Questionnaires were returned from 71.7% of doctors (n = 276). The key findings obtained were that 47.5% (n = 131) of doctors stated that taking part in the appraisal process had enhanced their learning, 40.2% (n = 111) felt that the appraisal process had improved their practice and 55.8% (n = 154) stated that the appraisal process had encouraged their CPD Qualitative findings derived from thematic analysis of open questions revealed that participants viewed the role of the appraiser as respected peer to be vital and there was a need for independence in the appraiser’s appointment. The time-consuming nature of the appraisal process was emphasised, with little protected time for preparation of documentation and engagement in CPD. Concerns were expressed about links between appraisal and revalidation.Conclusions Many doctors considered that the appraisal process had enhanced their learning,improved their practice and encouraged their CPD. A vital, independent role for the appraiser was emphasised as was a need to review the timeconsuming nature of the current appraisal process, together with identifying protected time to complete this and CPD engagement. As the role of appraisal within the revalidation process changes it is recognised that ensuring the quality, consistency and nature of appraisal will be essential to maintain the confidence of patients and doctors.


Susan McLaren, Karen Finlay

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