Regular GP appraisals improve patient care

Annual appraisal is a key feature of the support, development and progression of people in many professions. GPs need to undertake annual appraisals as part of the revalidation process. Done badly, appraisals are a frustrating waste of time – done well, they can make a hugely positive difference. So, what’s the verdict on how useful – or otherwise – the GP appraisal process is?

This is an edited version of a news item posted on the NHS England website.

A survey of thousands of GPs has revealed nine-in-10 family doctors say their annual work appraisal – a regular review of each GP’s performance, carried out by a senior doctor – has helped them to improve patients’ care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Feedback from more than 13,000 GPs, published on 16th July, shows that an annual appraisal of the care they offer has helped them to promote safety and quality improvement, as well as boosting their own personal development, easing pressure on services and building professional skills.

By looking at key indicators of patients’ care – such as the number of prescriptions written, new cancer cases identified and vaccines delivered – and comparing themselves against other doctors and benchmark data, GPs are able to make changes in how they care for their patients.

Findings and responses

Key findings of the report, based on feedback from more than one-in-three of the GP workforce, include:

  • more than nine-in-10 (91%) of GPs said their appraisal was useful for promoting quality improvement in their work;
  • the appraisal was reported as useful for improving patient care by 88% of respondents;
  • it was felt to be useful for both personal and professional development by 89%.

The yearly appraisal supports commitments in both the NHS Long Term Plan and five-year GP contract, to enhance the family doctor workforce, with an extra £4.5 billion going in to primary care services and another 20,000 specialist health workers available to work as part of GP teams. 

“GP appraisals work well for the majority of doctors surveyed which is good news for GPs, and for our patients, whose care and treatment will be improved as we deliver our Long Term Plan,” said Dr Nikita Kanani, London GP and NHS England interim medical director for primary care.

“Helping GPs adjust and improve the support they give is crucial for patient care and for doctors’ professional development, which is why we’ve worked with GPs to improve the appraisal process; these latest results show clearly that we are moving in the right direction, working with partners to reduce additional burden, with many doctors getting great value from it.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs gave a qualified welcome to the research. “It is encouraging that such a high number of the GPs who responded to the survey are finding appraisal useful for improving the quality of their work and, crucially, improving patient care,” she said.

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“The College will continue to work with NHS England, the GMC and others, and do what we can to continuously improve the appraisal process to ensure that it does not impose additional and unnecessary burdens on hard pressed GPs and that it is as relevant as possible to our everyday working lives in practice, caring for patients.”

You can read the full report here: Medical appraisal: feedback from GPs in 2018-19 .

GP appraisal - key facts
  • NHS England is responsible for delivering appraisal to GPs in England as part of the requirements for their professional revalidation.
  • Revalidation is the periodic confirmation that a doctor remains up to date and fit to practise.
  • The doctor prepares a portfolio of supporting information which they present for discussion in the appraisal meeting.
  • The doctor is also encouraged to list their achievements and challenges, from which they and their appraiser agree their professional development plan for the forthcoming year.
Feedback from GPs in the review
  • “Without appraiser support, I would not have continued working.
  • “I am refreshed and ready for the next 12 months and inspired for ongoing career development.”
  • “My appraiser’s style was relaxed but organised, and challenging yet supportive, suggesting some good ideas… to resolve some of the problems I presented,” Dr Philip Needham, a GP from Burton on Trent, said. 

 

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