Around 200 GPs, including members of the RCGP, have signed an open letter urging the Council to overhaul GP appraisals and revalidations.
The GPs sent the letter ahead of the Council meeting held tomorrow (21 November), calling on the College to withdraw support for the current appraisal process.
They call on the RCGP to put pressure on the GMC to adapt its policy.
Lead author of the letter Dr Heather Ryan said she hopes that appraisals will be suspended while the Covid crisis continues, but also that they will become more simplified in the future.
The letter was sent to Council chair Professor Martin Marshall and honorary secretaries Dr Victoria Tzortziou-Brown and Dr Jonathan Leach earlier this week (18 November).
It reads: ‘Appraisal should not ever have been restarted, least of all at the beginning of the second wave of a pandemic, especially as GPs are also re-escalating chronic disease management work and facing renewed demand from patients including being asked to take on Covid vaccination.
‘We call upon RCGP to withdraw its support for appraisal and revalidation during the pandemic with immediate effect. This should include insistence that the GMC develop the least burdensome system possible, to be implemented only after the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic have passed, until such time as any relevant statutory instruments can be revised.’
Dr Ryan, a GP in Warwickshire, told Pulse: ‘It’s not right that hardworking GPs, battling Covid alongside usual winter pressures, should have to take time away from clinical care to participate in an appraisal process which many GPs find stressful and which is poorly-evidenced.’
While acknowledging that some GPs find their appraisal ‘helpful and supportive’, Dr Ryan said that the mandatory aspects should be ‘stripped back to a bare minimum’, with additional support ‘optional’ only.
She stressed that the College changing its stance would have the capacity to ‘heavily influence’ the GMC.
Similarly, current Council member Dr John Cosgrove added: ‘I’m hopeful for change, and clearly there has been a fair amount of movement on appraisal already.
‘But I think our concern is that it doesn’t really fit in that way.
‘It would be nice to see coaching or mentorship as an offer, rather than something that is mandated.’
In response, chair Professor Martin Marshall told Pulse: ‘We’ve received this letter and thank the signatories for taking the time to write.
‘This is an important issue and the College will be responding in due course.’
Earlier in the Covid pandemic, NHS England ‘strongly recommended’ that appraisals were suspended, and then simplified the process behind them – decisions welcomed by the letter authors as ‘liberating’ and ‘a move in the right direction’.
The BMA also supported this, and concluded that pausing appraisals and revalidation did not affect patient safety.
NHS England subsequently announced in August that appraisals would return in October, albeit in a more relaxed format. But when the second spike of the virus gained momentum across the country, it admitted that this would no longer be possible in many areas.