Through its role in developing revalidation for doctors, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AOMRC) was concerned that there was a perceived lack of guidance regarding doctors’ return to practice after a period of absence.
The issue of doctors returning to clinical work – in hospitals as well as general practice – is important since many take time out for family or health reasons, or when working abroad. Measures to support doctors returning to practice after an absence, planned or otherwise, are essential as time away from practice can affect doctors’ skills, confidence and knowledge base. The Deaneries have a current policy for formal assessment and a re-entry programme after a GP has been out of practice for two years. The guidance has checklists to help guide the return to practice conversation.
For example a GP is returning to UK practice after several years working as a GP in New Zealand. In their discussion with the deanery, it is clear that they are clinically up-to-date so a short attachment to refresh on computer records, NICE Guidance and local NHS processes is all that is required.
Another situation might be that after three years as a non-clinical manager, a doctor decides to return to clinical general practice. An evaluation with the Deanery recognises the need for the doctor to undergo thorough refreshment and the doctor negotiates with the Deanery an education programme and a supervised practice placement.
In a third situation a GP returns after maternity leave. There is no requirement for her to be assessed or do a re-entry, but she reflect on her needs with her local GP Tutor and plans a gradated return to her practice, with part time work over several weeks and support from a partner who acts as her mentor.
GPs returning to work after a long absence often do so as salaried employees and they should still have access to a Responsible Officer and an appraiser. They will also benefit from the RCGP’s online Knowledge Update, and may be able to use GP Induction and Refresher Schemes when they have been out of practice for more than two years.
Professor Mike Pringle is the revalidation lead for RCGP and Kate Tansley is the revalidation lead for the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges.