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GPs barred from using RCGP toolkit for revalidation

Exclusive GPs in some areas may have to redo work they have already completed for the revalidation process after area teams barred them from using the RCGP’s toolkit, Pulse has learnt.

Local area teams in London have informed GPs that they must submit appraisals through the Clarity toolkit from April 2015, despite claims made by the GPC that NHS England had promised GPs can use whichever programme they so wished.  

The RCGP and the GPC warned that GPs will already have some data stored on their RCGP programmes and that this will lead to further administrative hassle for GPs.  

Londonwide LMCs is in discussion to get the policy reversed, but the GPC has said there are other area teams that are taking the same approach around toolkits, which are used to input GPs’ data collected for the purposes of revalidation.

This latest development will exacerbate GP concerns that they are spending too long on the revalidation process, following comments made by a GPC negotiator last year that it was taking him 40 hours to prepare, while an official report by the NHS Revalidation Support Team said it was a ‘bigger burden’ than expected.

The letter from South London’s responsible officer Dr Jane Fryer states: ‘The South London area team have decided to align with our North London colleagues and from next appraisal year (2015-2016) we shall only accept appraisals submitted on the Clarity toolkit.’

‘This might be a disappointment for doctors who currently use the RCGP toolkit so we felt it was important to give you some forewarning.’

GPC negotiator Dr Dean Marshall said that he had heard of other areas doing this, adding that this move was ‘outrageous’.

‘Are they suggesting that if a GP uses the College toolkit and has appropriate information that fulfils all the criteria of appraisal, they are not going to recommend that GP for revalidation? I think that’s outrageous and I think the GMC would be very interested in that.’

‘This has been an issue for a while with London particularly and some other areas are doing the same thing. The situation is not just a London issue.’

The policy was in contradiction to promises made by NHS England, he said.

He said: ‘We’ve had conversations with [NHS England deputy medical director Dr] Mike Bewick in the past about this and there is an agreement with NHS England that GPs are not constrained to using a particular toolkit, as long as the information is provided in a manner that can be dealt with by the appraiser – and clearly the RCGP toolkit would fit that.’

Dr Marshall warned that this would create more workload for GPs.

He said: ‘There may be loss of data when switching over and it’s an extra administrative hassle.’

‘Arguing about an administrative tool is missing the whole point and potentially causing extra administrative burdens to GPs at a time when we’re struggling to cope.’

The RCGP’s lead for revalidation Professor Nigel Sparrow said GPs may prefer to use their own toolkit for ‘wide variety of reasons’ including their IT preferences.

Professor Sparrow said: ‘GPs will have different preferences regarding the electronic resource that they use for a number of reasons, such as differing learning styles and IT preferences. Many GPs will already have information stored on a particular resource and have become used to using it.’

He added: ‘We believe that GPs should be free to decide which resource is the most appropriate for them, as long as the resource used facilitates the strong, submission and receipt of the information as required by the GMC.’

Dr Theodora Kalentzi, Londonwide LMCs medical secretary, said the LMC was in discussions to get the policy reversed.

In a circular to London GPs, Dr Kalentzi said: ‘I would like to reassure you that we share your concerns and grief on this decision and we have already raised them with Jane Fryer, who is currently in discussion with us.

‘Our position is that the decision should be reversed to the current status and any future changes to the appraisal process to be made in consultation with the profession.’

A spokesperson from NHS England said: ‘We understand the desire of doctors to choose which appraisal system is the most appropriate for them. However, this needs to be balanced with the practical impact on medical appraisers and responsible officers in having to use multiple systems.

‘Whilst we support responsible officers in seeking to move to a specific system or a limited number of systems, this should be achieved through discussion and agreement with doctors locally.’

NHS England London was unable to comment by the time of publication. However, in a subsequent statement, a spokesperson said: ‘Moving to one toolkit will standardise the revalidation process across the three Area Teams in London. Clarity is already used by 76% of GPs in South London, 100% of GPs in North East London and 97% of GPs in North West London.

‘NHS England (London) is currently reviewing comments from GPs who use the RCGP toolkit and will respond to the concerns that have been expressed as soon as possible. We will also hold group and one to one meetings to support those doctors most affected.’

The GMC declined to comment.

Last month, the chief inspector of primary care said he had ‘no confidence at all’ in the process.

This story was amended Tuesday 10 June to acknowledge NHS England London’s response.

Readers' comments (20)

  • I wonder which the medical appraiser would choose if they were given the choice? I understand that the RCGP tool has lots of users

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  • Well last year in my area - Cheshire - we were banned from using the excellent and free (donation ware) (during one appraisal there was a bug on a page - i rang the helpdesk and it was fixed before my appraisal ended) on the grounds they couldn't cope with too many systems. I appealed and appealed and got nowhere despite mentioning the guidance stating we GPs should have a free choice.
    I asked to use paper and was told i couldnt so i reverted to using the free PDF based MAGMAF? form which is cumbersome and a pain to use but i refuse to pay clarity or rcgp for their tools - i pay enough already.

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  • SImple solution. All GP surgeries should be closed Monday so that GPs can organise the change over properly.

    If needed there can be 1 Dr per surgery to field phone calls and divert anyone apart from palliative care to A+E.

    Problem solved.....

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  • There are several layers to the problem. The first one is whether appraisals should be uphelp and taken so seriously in the first place. It seems like this is a requirement for the 'authorities' to prove to the public 'they are doing something to keep the quality high'.

    The second is the fact that we have to pay for a software to make life easy for the appraisers/revalidators; otherwise, we could carry on using the paper based system. If this is the case, why not the appraisers/revalidators pay for the software. The appraisers would have to learn about different systems and familiarise themselves with the variety of systems used in appraisals. Certainly the 'authorities' can pay for their training.

    However, it seems like 'authorities' create a problem, and then hand it over to the GPs!

    I'm getting help from a retired GP who has plenty of spare time and would love to go through my toolkit and help me prepare it for the appraisal. I pay him a fee and add it to my expense list to claim back. He is happy, I am happy, the appraiser is happy, and hopefully the 'authorities' are happy!

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  • Isn't this illegal?

    As far as I understand there is nothing published by GMC which restricts the appraisal to use of a particular software. Enforcing one software, especially if it is a private software with potential profit attached to the provider, would not be seen as impartial.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Just glad I never chose RCGP one in the first place as I had to pay anyway ,not being a member of RCGP.
    Happy with Clarity so far......

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  • Does anyone have any further information - apart from the LATs holding a very low opinion of their appraisers' capabilities - about the *process* by which it was decided to go for a single system, the evaluation undertaken to decide which of the various commercial, professional or free appraisal toolkits was most suitable for the purpose, and the consultations/tendering undertaken in the selection?
    I am concerned that when a commercial company is given a monopoly to supply a product, strict due process has been applied and that there is no undue influence, lobbying or undeclared conflict of interest..

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  • Does this need referral to the Competition and Markets Authority?

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  • If nobody did it -would they terminate all of us? Who would do the actual looking after patients bit ?

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  • Presumably the PDF form on the NHS England website is still permitted. It's free and works very well.

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