The RCGP has called for GP appraisals to be suspended for up to a year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It reached this decision following pressure from a group of GPs, including RCGP council members, whose open letter urged the Council to adopt this stance.
The council approved the motion at its meeting last weekend (21 November).
The authors of the letter have welcomed the move.
In a statement, the RCGP said: ‘Workload in general practice has already risen beyond 2019 levels in many parts of the UK. The College is therefore calling for further suspension of current GP appraisal requirements for up to one year, during the Covid-19 pandemic.’
But chair Professor Martin Marshall added: ‘Appraisal serves a number of important functions and some GPs find the process supportive and useful. For this reason, it is important that appraisal should continue for those GPs who want to undertake it.’
The original letter, signed by around 200 GPs, read: ‘We call upon RCGP to withdraw its support for appraisal and revalidation during the pandemic with immediate effect.’
Its lead author, Dr Heather Ryan, told Pulse: ‘I’m delighted that RCGP Council have taken such a strong position on appraisal, including calling for it to be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s great to see RCGP so aligned with the grassroots on this issue.’
The signatories also hoped for appraisals to become more simplified after the pandemic, and the RCGP has vowed to ‘work with key stakeholders’ to ‘further explore and understand’ issues around the goals of appraisal and revalidation, and the effectiveness of their current systems.
‘Looking ahead’, it will also draw on the ‘emerging evidence’ surrounding the new model of appraisal, and results of the evaluation being planned by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.
The news comes as the Government announced this week that a new process ‘currently being evaluated’ would see GP appraisals lasting 30 minutes to cut unnecessary bureaucracy.
The pandemic brought a number of changes to the appraisal process, including a reduction in the amount of written reflection to be undertaken beforehand.
Most recently, NHS England said that it would no longer be feasible for appraisals to return during the second spike of the pandemic, even in a more relaxed format.
The RCGP supported these changes, continuing: ‘Early feedback from members in England has been mixed, with some GPs who have been through the new process reporting a positive experience, while others have suggested that the new flexibility has been delivered variably in different areas, with a number of GPs reporting barriers in postponing their appraisal.’
While recognising that appraisals can be a ‘supportive process’ for some GPs, the RCGP stresses that it is important to not ‘rely’ on them as the ‘predominant route for wellbeing support’.
The RCGP added that it is ‘more important than ever that every GP receives relevant information about the support they can access, regardless of their ability to take part in the appraisal process’.