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360-degree appraisals 'no improvement'

Use of 360-degree assessment has not been shown to be a better method of measuring performance than other forms of appraisal, an expert in appraisals has warned.

Despite this, last month's white paper on regulation outlined plans to introduce 360-degree appraisals for doctors.Alan Cook, senior consultant at Edgecumbe Consulting Group, an HR consultancy specialising in the appraisal of doctors, said: 'Research is not able to say "do well in 360-degree assessment and this person will perform well".'

A potential drawback of the 360-degree system was that peer ratings tended to be 'more lenient, less reliable and less valid' when used for appraisal purposes rather than development, he said.

Mr Cook said this did not mean 'reliable, valid and feasible' peer ratings tools could not be developed but that 360-degree assessment must be developmental if it was to work positively.

The assessment should relate to specific standards, and areas covered should be clearly described. There should be an area for comments rather than just ratings where colleagues were giving feedback.

And although responses should be confidential, the identity of respondents should not be fully anonymised.Mr Cook said that Edgecumbe's research on 360-degree appraisals showed doctors had a poorer opinion of their performance than their colleagues and patients did.

The process highlighted their strengths in clinical safety and competence, maintaining confidentiality and acting appropriately in emergency situations.Areas where they were weaker included ability to compromise, managing personal stress and communicating effectively with staff.

Mr Cook said: 'The art of giving feedback and delivering results is all in 360-degree appraisal.'If you alienate someone from the start, they aren't going to accept it.'

The GMC has begun piloting colleague and patient questionnaires for the GP 360-degree appraisal, Amanda Watson, director of registration and education at the regulator, confirmed.

She said the Department of Health had also been asking for views on generic feedback forms, to be used in appraisal pilots currently under way.

360-degree appraisals360-degree appraisals 360-degree appraisals

Doctors perform well on...
• Clinical safety and competence
• Maintaining confidentiality
• Acting appropriately in emergency situations

Doctors weaker on...
• Ability to compromise
• Managing personal stress
• Communicating effectively with staff

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