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Government way off mark on appraisal workload

The Government has grossly underestimated the time GPs will have to spend on appraisals, new research suggests.

The analysis of a pilot appraisal scheme in Wales found GPs undergoing appraisal spent up to 15 hours on interviews, meetings and data collection and 24 hours on writing up material.

Appraisers spent up to 15 hours on preparation, the interview and follow-up.

The findings contrast with Department of Health estimates GPs would only have to spend between four and six hours on appraisal.

The research, which took place in 2001 before the appraisal scheme was rolled out across England and Scotland, also raised concerns over the cost of employing locums to cover the time taken by appraisals.

Most GPs supported the appraisal process but were suspicious of the Government's motives for setting up the scheme, found the researchers from the Department of Postgraduate Education for General Practice at the University of Wales.

GPs were also confused about how their appraisal linked with revalidation and were worried how information about their health and probity would be used, said a report in the British Journal of General Practice (June).

The findings of the study will be used to inform the setting up of an appraisal system for GPs in Wales.

Professor Glyn Elwyn, one of the study authors, said appraisers and appraisees were on a steep learning curve and this may have led to the process taking longer.

'They were all learning how to do it,' he said.

'They took it very seriously and wanted to be careful, so they had on average three meetings with each appraiser, and there was a lot of

checking.'

The majority of the 26 appraisers considered the process a 'positive, rewarding and educational experience', and said it was an opportunity to improve standards.

Of the 174 GP appraisees, 83 per cent said their appraiser was supportive and 74 per cent thought appraisers gave good advice.

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