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Appraisals are bad enough, without leaving you out of pocket

By Richard Hoey

It was the Government's decision to take down the NHS Appraisal Toolkit, and it is the Government that must bear the cost

OK, so my blog has been a little intermittent lately. I've been rather busy over the last couple of weeks with, and I'm not making this up, staff appraisals.

Yup, journalists have them too, and like appraisals everywhere they are a nightmare of paperwork and targets and slightly tense inter-personal relations.

But while the stakes in an analysis of a journalist's performance are not non-existent (errors could lead to Pulse getting sued), they are rather lower than for GPs, where errors could of course mean someone dying.

And those high stakes, with the close scrutiny they bring both of the doctor's performance and patient information, are why the decision to take down the NHS Appraisal Toolkit has caused such a furore.

GP appraisal is a bureaucratic pain in the neck, and is getting more so as revalidation approaches, so having no electronic means of organising information is not what the doctor ordered.

In fairness to the Department of Health, this cannot have been an easy decision.

While being denied access to the site is a pain, taking chances that others could access the sensitive information it contains would be much worse.

Dr Charles West, a GP appraiser and Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, makes the point that once weaknesses in the site had been identified, it should have been possible to keep it live while keeping an eye on the loopholes.

He may well be right, but the desire to stay on the safe side is understandable.

What is much less understandable is the DH's obfuscatory response to questions over whether GPs would be reimbursed for costs incurred by the rearrangement of appraisals – such as locum cover.

The DH says it is up to PCTs to decide on a case by case basis, which is a weasel way of passing the buck.

It's actually a pretty simple decision this one. The DH has messed up GP appraisals by failing to maintain a properly secure toolkit and then taking it down without notice, so surely – surely – it must be the DH that coughs up for costs incurred as a result.

If it doesn't, expect the 360 degree feedback from GPs to be less than complimentary.

By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor