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BMA welcomes new slimmed-down GP appraisals during pandemic

NHS England has confirmed plans to relaunch GP appraisals from next month under a new ‘flexible’ system, in a move which was welcomed by the BMA today.

Responsible officers received the information in a letter from NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis sent today, and which Pulse reported on in draft form a month ago.

The letter, which appears unchanged, said ROs should restart appraisals from 1 October, taking a more flexibile approach, with the view to restart regular appraisals from 1 April next year – after these were suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the letter, NHS England said the reason for bringing back appraisals was to ‘support’ doctors.

And the BMA’s GP Committee said it was ‘encouraged by the significant simplification of the requirements and the reduction in paperwork’.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has published further guidance on the interim appraisal system.

It told doctors that it ‘is understood that your supporting information and written reflection may have been limited by the disruption caused by the pandemic’.

However, doctors ‘will need to provide at least the minimum essentials for your appraisal’, which it lists as ‘any supporting information that you have gathered since your last appraisal’; and ‘any significant events, compliments and complaints in which you were personally named or involved and any items you have been asked to bring to the appraisal in the usual way’.

The guidance added that: ‘If there is specific supporting information required in order to make your revalidation recommendation and it is difficult for you to gather this, discuss with your appraiser how you plan to collect the information and reflect on it in your next appraisal in your current revalidation cycle.’

Commenting on the news, BMA GP committee deputy chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said: ‘A robust appraisal process benefits both doctors and patients, upholding standards and best practice, and encouraging professional development. Following the necessary pausing of appraisals during the height of the pandemic, the BMA has been in discussion with NHSE/I to ensure the planned restart is not overly disruptive for practices while allowing public confidence to be maintained.

‘We’re encouraged by the significant simplification of the requirements and the reduction in paperwork, which allows both appraisers and appraisees to focus on treating patients rather than bureaucracy.

‘This slimmed down system is a step forward in empowering doctors to use their appraisal to reflect on their professional development, and forms part of a wider drive by the BMA to reduce bureaucracy.’

NHS England’s letter said appraisals may be suspended again on a local basis if GPs are having to respond to a local outbreak of coronavirus.

It comes as  the GMC announced an extension to GP revalidation dates eligible for deferral in June.

Previously, all revalidation dates scheduled from March until the end of September 2020 were deferred for a year to ‘free up vital time’ for GPs to respond to the virus.

Meanwhile, NHS England has launched its review into GP bureaucracy, which was promised as part of this year’s contract negotiations.

And the CQC is restarting GP practice inspections in the autumn.