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No need for appraisal fears

Many registrars are shocked to discover they have to undergo formal appraisal during their training year – but prepare well and it should be a useful experience, says Dr Mei Ling Denney

Many registrars are shocked to discover they have to undergo formal appraisal during their training year – but prepare well and it should be a useful experience, says Dr Mei Ling Denney

Many registrars regard annual GP appraisal as applicable only to doctors who have left VTS.

A framework for appraisal of doctors in training was issued in 2003, which extended formal annual appraisal to all doctors in training including, of course, GP registrars.

Your appraisal should encompass the educational processes and documentation already in place through the deanery or RCGP, and is not designed to replace them.

As a registrar, you are responsible for ensuring that you are annually appraised. Not only is this in line with deanery guidelines, it prepares you for revalidation, and also offers an opportunity for formative feedback from your trainer.

The aims of appraisal are to:

•review the registrar's performance

•provide feedback on progress and performance

•lay out personal and professional development needs

•consider possible future career paths

•look at ways of meeting these, and agree appropriate plans.

Who should appraise you?

Your trainer is the most appropriate person to conduct the appraisal. If your trainer is not available, or there is good reason for you to request somebody else to stand in for your trainer, this should be another GP who is experienced in training GP registrars, and understands how to carry out appraisal.

Although many trainers are not formally trained as NHS appraisers, going through this will give you an idea of the annual appraisal process, and the experience feeds into the teaching and learning that takes place in your registrar year.

Appraisal is supposed to be a supportive and developmental process, and is not to be used in any way as a disciplinary procedure. The idea is that it should be focused around your personal and professional development.

Both you and your trainer should prepare for the appraisal by identifying the issues that might be discussed, and reflecting on them. This agenda should be agreed between yourselves at the start of the appraisal.

The forms

All doctors in training must have a portfolio containing appraisal documentation, so it is important to think about your collection of evidence in preparation for this appraisal and subsequent professional revalidation.

Registrars sometimes worry that they do not have the wealth of evidence available to principals in practice, but this is not so.

If you consider each section of the appraisal, you should find that you have plenty to contribute.

There are five forms you should know about relating to the appraisal process.

The forms can be filled in on paper or on the electronic forms which you can download from the Department of Health site or your local deanery website.

Though similar, the layout and content differ somewhat from those used by GPs in practice, apart from Form 4, which is largely the same.

Form 1 asks for your personal details – your primary medical qualification, any other qualifications or degrees, and details of any specialist registration outside the UK. Include details of your main employer and an up-to-date CV here.

Form 2 refers to details of your current medical activities. This includes a short description of your work and training in the practice, details of daytime on-call and out-of-hours work, any other clinical work (such as being a sports event doctor), and also any non-clinical work undertaken, such as teaching, research, or management activities outside the practice. It is a good idea to use information from your contract with your training practice to help you fill this in.

Form 3 relates to the standards of the GMC's Good Medical Practice and gives guidance on the data and evidence required. This will be covered more fully in a separate article. Form 3 should also include your past record in service training assessment (RITA) forms from your hospital posts.

Form 4 is the summary of your appraisal discussion.

Form 5 contains the personal development plan, which helps you to identify your developmental needs and plan the training for your next post. It is also where you can document your personal reflections on training and development.

Preparation – and environment

Preparing for appraisal takes time, and cannot properly be done in a single afternoon. It is a good idea to set aside a little time each week to fill in a section of your forms, and collect together any documents needed.

Create a ring binder or a series of loose-leaf file folders for this purpose. The appraisal itself requires protected time – it is worthwhile allowing a couple of hours for this, and letting the rest of the practice know that neither you nor your trainer should be interrupted if possible.

Make sure that you are in a room where you feel comfortable, and put a 'do not disturb' notice on the door!

Mei Ling Denney is a trainer and GP appraiser – she works part-time as a GP in Peterborough

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