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Clinical Examination and Procedural Skills (CEPS)

It is essential you learn how to examine patients within the general practice setting.

To be awarded your CCT, evidence for the following must be included:

  • The five mandatory intimate examinations. A suitably trained professional will need to observe and document your performance on a CEPS evidence form.
  • A range of additional Examinations and Procedural Skills relevant to General Practice which demonstrate competence. 7 “system” observed CEPS categories are included in the Clinical Examination and Procedural Skills section of the Portfolio.

Your supervisor must also be satisfied through observed evidence or documented evidence from others that you are competent in general and systemic examinations for the clinical curriculum areas. These may well have been completed in your previous training but can be easily covered in joint surgeries for example.

Introduction

Proficient Clinical Examination and Procedural Skills are fundamental to effective general practice. Relevant evidence for this Capability needs to be gathered regularly throughout each review period and recorded in your Portfolio. As with the other Capabilities there are sets of descriptors to help you reflect on your progression as you acquire these skills.

Which CEPS skills need to be assessed?

By the end of training your Educational Supervisor must have observed or have documented evidence from others that you are competent in general and systemic examinations in the clinical curriculum areas.

There are 5 intimate examinations which need to be specifically included, as these are mandated by the GMC. These include breast, rectal, prostate, male genital examination and female genital examination (which includes a speculum and bimanual pelvic examination).

You need to be observed performing the intimate examinations by a suitably trained professional. The assessor records their observation on the CEPS evidence form. If this is another doctor, they must be at ST4 level or above, or an SAS equivalent. If the colleague is another healthcare professional, such as a specialist nurse, they must confirm their role and training so that your Educational Supervisor can be satisfied that they have been appropriately trained.

You may also decide to write a separate log entry on any of these specific skills.

It is also important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of intimate examinations and indeed any examination can be considered intimate by some patients (for example, an examination of the eye with an ophthalmoscope), but the examinations listed are those that, due to their particularly intrusive nature, need to be specifically observed, and commented on, during your training.

The 5 mandatory examinations are not a ‘minimum requirement’ and cannot by themselves demonstrate overall competence in CEPS. A range of observed assessed CEPS which are relevant to general practice are also required. 7 “system” observed CEPS categories are included in the CEPS section of the Portfolio to help meet this requirement

These are:

  • Respiratory system
  • Ear Nose and Throat
  • Abdominal system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Neurological examination
  • Child 1- 5 years

The image below shows how this appears on the Trainee Portfolio:

CEPS assessment table

This again is not an exhaustive list, nor is there a set minimum number as everyone has different needs. You are expected to document your performance in CEPS in your portfolio and/or discuss your learning needs during placement planning meetings with your supervisors. The range of examinations, procedures and the number of observations will depend on your particular requirements and the professional judgement of your Clinical and Educational Supervisors.

For example, you may recognise that your learning needs to include more experience of joint examinations, the examination of the eye, or doing a new-born baby check. You may wish to discuss with your supervisor how these can be addressed. Your supervisor may also recognise areas that need to be addressed such as completing a mental health state examination within a GP-length consultation or examining a diabetic patient’s feet correctly.

You may already be aware of specific CEPS you want to address, but these can equally become apparent during your consultations with patients.

In addition, it is important to recognise the procedures you may need during emergency presentations in General Practice. For example, can you explain to a patient who is having an asthma attack what you are going to do in setting up a nebuliser?

Completion of CEPS

Recording CEPS has been made easier by linking to the COTs form and by adding it to the Educational assessments section as well as the CEPS section. It is important to link Clinical Case Reviews to the CEPS capability to demonstrate competence within this capability, as it is with all the capabilities.

You will not be able to be signed off as competent in CEPS by your Educational Supervisor during your final review unless they are satisfied you are competent in general and systemic examination of the clinical curriculum areas, the 5 mandatory intimate skills and a range of assessed observed non-intimate CEPS relevant to General Practice. When signing trainees off as competent in CEPS, Educational Supervisors are asked to confirm that they are “satisfied that you have seen the trainee examine patients and you have no concerns in their ability to examine patients correctly across a wide range of systems, including the mandatory CEPS and a range of other CEPS as listed in the CEPS Summary.

This will also be reviewed at your ARCP panel, and a non-standard outcome given if these are not present.

Page last updated: 1 July 2023

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Clinical Examination and Procedural Skills (CEPS) FAQ

Apart from the five mandatory examinations as required by the GMC it will be up to you to discuss your learning needs with your Educational Supervisor. The CEPS to be considered and the range of evidence required will depend on various factors such as your prior experience and the nature of your current placement. 7 “system” observed CEPS categories are included in the CEPS section of the Portfolio to help meet the requirements for CEPS (Respiratory system, Ear Nose and Throat, Abdominal system, Cardiovascular system, Musculoskeletal system, Neurological examination, and Child 1- 5 years). Remember that you are training to be a GP and so procedures that are unlikely to be performed in a GP setting, whilst interesting to reflect on, are not so relevant. Nevertheless, all examinations and procedures have some common features such as the need to gain consent and the need to consider the comfort of the patient.

There is no agreed definition of what constitutes an intimate examination. The five examinations for which evidence of competence is required by the GMC are generally accepted examples of intimate examinations, but there are many others. For instance, the examination of the eye with an ophthalmoscope is considered by many be an intimate examination, especially as it requires the examination room to be darkened. Ultimately it is the individual patient who determines what is intimate or invasive for them and this will be determined by a number of possible factors including their prior experiences, demographic and other factors.

There is no set number. There needs to be enough to demonstrate, to your Educational Supervisor and the ARCP’s satisfaction, your competence in CEPS. Enough to demonstrate a range of assessed observed non-intimate CEPS is required by the end of ST3 training year and these should be done across the training years ST1,2 and 3. In each of ST1 and 2 this is defined as “Ongoing: some appropriate to post”.

The standard is that of an independent fully qualified General Practitioner. As well as the technical aspects of examination and the ability to recognise abnormal physical signs, it includes the choice of examination best suited to the clinical context. For instance, a competent GP very rarely performs an extensive neurological examination but will perform a limited neurological examination, as determined by the history taken from the patient, and perform it within the length of the GP consultation.

Training in a skills' lab and the use of manikins can be a very helpful adjunct to training in the workplace. In general, and certainly in the case of the five intimate examinations as required by the GMC, this will not be sufficient evidence of competence without the demonstration that your skills can be applied in a clinical context.

Although being observed performing such an examination might be helpful it would be unlikely to provide sufficient evidence of clinical competence. For instance, the extent of the examination in such a situation is determined by the insurance company and not by the clinician and may not be performed within the length of a normal GP consultation.

No, if your Educational Supervisor is satisfied that the evidence you have provided for one of the five intimate examinations as required by the GMC is sufficient this does not need to be repeated. However, it is important that this evidence is recorded in such a way that you can remember where it is. The easiest ways to do this is to use the CEPS forms. At the final review before a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) is recommended your Educational Supervisor will need to answer a specific question in relation to these examinations.

All GP trainees, including those with a disability, are to meet the required competences to ensure patient safety. This includes having the insight to:

  • recognise when a disability prevents completion of an examination
  • understand the examination required, and that it is a necessary part of the consultation
  • facilitate a patient examination in a timely fashion
  • demonstrate that the trainee knows what to do with the findings.
  • If a trainee feels this guidance may apply to one of their examinations (regardless of whether it is a mandatory examination or not) they should discuss this with their Educational Supervisor/Programme Director in the first instance.

For example, one possible approach might be that a trainee who cannot physically carry out an examination refers the patient to a colleague, and then instruct the colleague to examine the patient appropriately, and then interpret the findings having communicated with the colleague who carried out the examination.

In a training context, to satisfy the CEPS requirement, the observer (who could be the person who performs the examination) should document on the assessment form the part of the CEPS they did observe, and document why it was necessary for the examination to be done in this way.

This should be added into the observation and feedback performance box on the assessment form.

No, evidence of a range of assessed CEPS is also required for your ES to sign off the capability of CEPS before CCT.