December is upon us, and with it the annual indignity of my appraisal, as inexorable as a bout of recurrent herpes and about half as welcome. It seems like only yesterday I was writing an angry blog about appraisal, but here we are again. I know what you’re going to say: I should do little bits of my angry appraisal blog throughout the year, so it’s nearly complete when I come to need it, and in fairness I swear each year to do that next time, only to inevitably find myself staring down a deadline in the wee small hours, shoehorning vaguely-remembered bits and bobs into some semblance of order.
Appraisal is a scandalous squandering of the most precious resource in the NHS
While recent high-level research shows most GPs find appraisal worthless, some people say they enjoy it, and I suppose I can understand that. I certainly get a mild sense of elation when it’s over for another year, like that experienced on leaving an exam hall, or relievedly jettisoning a particularly tenacious poo. If nothing else, it’s a few hours’ respite from the daily grind of withholding my secret cure for the common cold from people who’ve explained how they really need to be better in time for Christmas.
But that doesn’t excuse the fact that appraisal is a scandalous squandering of the most precious resource in the NHS: GPs’ time. Each appraisal represents six combined appraiser-appraisee hours away from direct patient contact; multiply by 40,000 GPs and suddenly one and a half million appointments are up in smoke. And that’s even before you consider the innumerable hours of scanning, linking, and general fretting spent in pointless preparation, let alone the phantom clinics that will remain forever unfilled after frustration with appraisal encourages many colleagues into early retirement.
In years gone by, I used to keep my head down, tick the boxes, and pretend to reflect through gritted teeth, like Mark Corrigan doing expressive dance. Unfortunately, to the powers that be, this kind of mute compliance appears identical to enthusiastic endorsement. So nowadays I give ‘em the bare minimum name-rank-and-serial-number 50 credits, use the white spaces to delineate why it’s a total waste of time, and harangue my unfortunate appraiser about how I wish everyone else who hates appraisal would do the same. ‘If you feel so strongly about this, why don’t you write about it in your blog?’, he suggested this time, in what I now suspect was a jaded attempt to get me to leave. Well, I was going to anyway, but now that he’s told me to, I can put it in my PDP as well.
Two points down, 48 to go. See you next year.
Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson