Personal development plan

Myth: My personal development plan must include… 

There is nothing that the GMC requires your personal development plan (PDP) to include. 

Your goals should be taken from your appraisal as an individual and your specific needs. The GMC requires you to make progress with your PDP each year or explain why that has not been possible. They require you to reach agreement with your appraiser on a PDP for the coming year based on your appraisal portfolio and discussion. Your PDP should be:

  • personal
  • developmental
  • a plan for the future 

It should meet your needs in the context within which you work. We recommend that you develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) goals with your appraiser. It often helps to work out how you can demonstrate that a change you plan as one of your PDP goals has made a difference by considering what the impact on patients will be.

Performance objectives should be part of job planning and not necessarily part of your appraisal and revalidation PDP unless you wish to include them.

Myth: My personal development plan cannot include… 

The only PDP goals that are inappropriate are ones that are flippant, not specific to you, or irrelevant to your needs. 

Your appraiser is trained to help you work out how to write your PDP so that it is a professional record of your personal development planning for your needs. The PDP goals should be balanced across the five-year cycle and across your whole scope of practice.

Goals around being a good role model for patients and maintaining your personal health and wellbeing in a period of great pressures on the healthcare system are entirely appropriate. It is important to use the PDP to capture those high importance goals that are essential for the coming year if there is something that you need to achieve. For example, if you need to do your colleague feedback in the coming year, spending some time planning who to ask and how to do it and including it in your PDP acts as an aide memoire to yourself and to your next appraiser.

It is not appropriate to include non-specific goals in your PDP that could apply to any doctor and do not apply to your personal needs. Your goals should not normally be part of what everyone is required to do to be fit to practice. For example, 'keep up-to-date' is not a sufficiently SMART goal. These goals should be re-framed and described in more specific terms so that you can demonstrate: 

  • where they have arisen
  • why they apply to you now
  • how you will achieve them
  • how you will demonstrate that your goal has been met
  • that achieving the goal will make a difference.

Myth: I must have a set number of PDP or clinical PDP goals

The GMC requires you to agree a new PDP each year that reflects your needs as defined by the portfolio of supporting information and the appraisal discussion. This is a matter for agreement between you and your appraiser. 

There is no GMC requirement about the number of PDP goals you should include or if those goals are clinical or non-clinical. Some doctors like to record lots of PDP items; it is your PDP. Most doctors find three or four PDP items are sufficient to capture their priority goals. You could have one very big objective that you have broken down into separate interim or smaller goals.

There is no GMC requirement to include some clinical goals. If, for example, your main goal was becoming a GP trainer there might be no clinical objectives in a particular year. However, under normal circumstances, it would be unusual not to include any clinical goals and you should consider reflecting on why you have not chosen to include any with your appraiser. Your PDP can be a particularly useful place to plan your quality improvement activity for the coming year.

Myth: My appraiser should tell me what to put in my PDP

Your Personal Development Plan should be owned by you. You are the doctor who will have to make progress with it. While it should be formed from your needs and priorities as they arise from the appraisal portfolio and discussion, it should never be imposed on you and your appraiser should not tell you what to put in it. Your appraiser may help you to define your needs and priorities more clearly, but your PDP should remain personal, developmental and form a plan for the future that is valuable to you. 

The RCGP recommends that you put some thought into what your priorities for the coming year might be before your appraisal discussion so that you already have some ideas about what an appropriate PDP might be, although your top priorities may change as a result of the discussion.

Myth: I do not have a PDP because I have just finished my training

All GPs in training in the UK must have a PDP for their final ARCP (Annual Review of Competence Progression) and this is the PDP that should be brought forward to their first medical appraisal for revalidation.

It is possible that some doctors arriving from overseas may not have been part of any managed system that would generate a PDP. In such cases the RCGP recommend that the appraiser should use a "disagree" statement as one of the outputs of appraisal and explain in the comments that there has been no progress with the previous PDP because there was no previous PDP.

Next: Performers List >

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