The changing face of CPD

13 November 2020 

In preparation for this blog, I took some time to reflect on my last blog for the College which I wrote at the turn of the year. I note this part of my concluding sentence:

"All in all, 2020 promises further challenges."

It is fair to say that at the time I was pre-empting the fairly commonplace "further challenges" to primary care we have become accustomed to over the years. It would have been inconceivable for me to have predicted the year we have had as a health service since then.

For this blog, I am choosing not to focus on the ever-shifting landscape of COVID-19 but on the developments in terms of GPST and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) over this year.

Training with general practice

Not only have we had a huge shift in our clinical practice, we have swiftly adjusted our educational approaches and delivery. During the early months of the pandemic it was very unclear how we could continue to run tutorials and in-house training for the GP ST1 and 3 that were attached to my practice at this time.

Like many, I turned to my local trainers group for ideas and advice on maintaining some semblance of good training.

Within my practice, I quickly moved to using the leadership and organisational work that we were undertaking at great pace to provide learning opportunities. Flagging areas of demonstrable good practice and system changes which were happening in real time provided unique and valuable insights for our trainees.

When we felt that one to one tutorial time was manageable again, the themes that were frequently discussed were of the pitfalls and advantages of telephone and video consulting.

Similarly, the photos which were now flooding in on a daily basis of various lesions, swellings and body parts allowed opportunities for us to constructively discuss them with our trainees.

I held huge admiration for the adaptability of our GPST1 in her first GP placement and in our wonderful GPST3 who had her CSA exam cancelled the day before it was scheduled to take place.

On the note of exams, we have to thank our Exams Boards and team who pulled out all the stops to provide an urgent, accessible and successful replacement of the CSA in the face of huge challenges. 

Additionally, we now have new RCGP curriculum areas and the new FourteenFish portfolio platform to learn to work with. As is often the case with new IT, adjusting takes a few months and then it feels second nature and generally an improvement on the old system.

Challenges of online teaching

My role for NHS Education for Scotland as course organiser for the GPST1 Educational Release Programme has afforded me a steep learning curve in switching to teaching entirely via a screen.

I feel I’ve been on a crash course on teaching via Microsoft Teams and the various etiquette blunders one can make. I am grateful to have now successfully delivered three full sessions with my co-teachers.

Each session requiring PowerPoint changes and multiple 'sound and lighting' checks before going live!

Sometimes feeling as though we were about to perform to a crowd but in fact teaching to forty plus GPSTs with their screens turned off, 'reading the room' and energy proving very tricky but with practise it is going well.

Similarly, universities all over the country have massively shifted the way their courses are delivered with a mix of online and small group teaching and I don’t underestimate the huge work undertaken by the medical schools during this time.

A new way of learning

CPD as we know it has been completely upended this year. Initially, we faced months of all courses and events being cancelled to now a wide variety of events available which have been adapted to an online format.

I have attended several brilliant courses which have been taught via Microsoft Teams. My local Lothian LMC has provided a colossal amount of online activity by way of updates and meetings which has provided great support during an uncertain time - they have even managed to deliver a CPR update via video link!

Throughout the course of the pandemic, RCGP has continued to provide learning and support.

To date, more than 200 online courses and events have been delivered to over 22,000 members on a range of topics including managing COVID-19, clinical updates on pain management and cardiology through to practitioner wellbeing and support for practice staff.

While this is a new way of learning and connecting with colleagues that we are all getting used to, it does increase inclusivity, breaking down the practical barriers to attending courses such as location, travel time and child care.

Leadership for Integration

Work with the Leadership for Integration (LfI) project will be continuing this year and we will be adapting its programme content to best support individuals and deliver coaching within the current COVID-19 climate. The programmes offer leadership development opportunities aimed towards supporting health and social care integration.

These opportunities can be for individuals or for teams and also for those looking for an introduction to collaborative leadership. For more information on the programmes available, please contact Susan Bennett, Projects Officer, RCGP Scotland on 07827 237821 or email.

I would like to thank our entire primary care workforce who continue to tirelessly provide a superb service under incredibly difficult circumstances.

Special thanks also to our GPST Trainers and Undergraduate Tutors who alongside their wider practice teams have pieced together training and continue to provide education to our precious future workforce in the face of adversity.

As we continue to work at the frontline during this pandemic, with all the challenges that this brings, I try my best to block out any negative background noise and focus in on the needs of the patient in front of me and the great pride that I feel in being able to teach and train our future GP workforce.

Post written by

Dr Sigi Joseph, RCGP Scotland's Executive Officer for Professional Development

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