RCGP statement on GP appraisals

On Saturday 21 November 2020, RCGP UK Council approved a motion on GP appraisals. This statement outlines our public position.

Appraisal requirements were paused in wave 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic to help ease the workload of doctors and to ensure they could focus on delivering patient care. Appraisals were then restarted in early Autumn in England, Scotland and Wales, and are expected to restart in Northern Ireland for a small group of GPs between January and March next year. We are now experiencing wave 2 of the pandemic. Alongside winter pressures, general practice is delivering an expanded flu vaccination programme, and will play a leading role in the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Workload in general practice has already risen beyond 2019 levels in many parts of the UK. The College is therefore calling for further suspension of current GP appraisal requirements for up to one year, during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

GPs who do wish to carry out their appraisal should continue to be able to do so, but there should be no requirement for GPs to receive formal approval in order to postpone their appraisal until after the busy winter months.

Changes to the appraisal process 

The RCGP has welcomed the recent changes to the appraisal process. These resulted in a reduction in pre-appraisal written reflection, and aimed to create a new supportive process, without imposing unnecessary paperwork and workload on doctors. In the light of the workload pressures facing the NHS, further guidance was issued by NHS England and Improvement and the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland. This recommended that considerable flexibility be given to individual doctors as appraisals are restarted. Early feedback from members in England has been mixed. Some GPs who have been through the new process reported a positive experience. Others have suggested that the new flexibility has been delivered variably in different areas, with a number of GPs reporting barriers in postponing their appraisal.

We recognise that for some, appraisals can be a supportive process which can enable them to access appropriate guidance and resources. However, it is important that we do not rely on annual appraisals as the predominant route for wellbeing support. The COVID-19 outbreak has been a challenging time for all staff in the NHS. It is more important than ever that every GP receives relevant information about the support they can access, regardless of their ability to take part in the appraisal process. Ensuring GPs and their teams can continue to deliver high-quality patient care must remain a core priority.

The future of GP appraisals

Looking ahead, we are aware of ongoing questions from our members about the goals of appraisal and revalidation and the effectiveness of the current system in achieving these. RCGP will therefore work with key stakeholders to establish a process to further explore and understand these issues. We will draw on the emerging evidence concerning the impact of the new model for appraisal, and the results of the evaluation of the new model that it is being planned by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

25 November 2020.