Need some help getting into gear for revalidation?
Beverley Boon gives some useful advice in her top ten tips for Independent Practitioner Today readers
Every registered doctor has to go through the same appraisal and revalidation process even if the NHS and private sector differ in their approach.
For private doctors without a designated body, this can be complex and difficult, as they do not have a Responsible Officer (RO) and therefore have to search for a suitable person.
1 Familiarise yourself with your revalidation solution software
For appraisal purposes, you are required to submit supporting information and an appraisal portfolio to your appraiser.
In the past, this was all done with hard paper copies, but it is now conducted electronically via appraisal software.
There are many appraisal and revalidation solutions and platforms out there and the one you are expected to use may change from year to year, depending on the organisation you are currently working with.
This means it is really important to ensure you are familiar with your particular appraisal e-portfolio for the coming year.
Although similar and all designed with the same goal in mind, knowing how to navigate through your appraisal software will save you a great deal of time when uploading all your information.
The doctors I have worked with have found their biggest level of frustration comes from the IT elements: either not being able to log onto the personal e-portfolio or not being able to easily navigate around it once in. So it really helps to find your way around these long before deadline.
2 Jot down your log-in details. Keep them safe
It sounds simple and obvious, but as the process is now conducted electronically via appraisal software, both you and your appraiser need access to your electronic portfolio or e-portfolio.
With the average person having 26 online accounts, revalidation adds number 27.
Even the sharpest of minds would struggle to remember log-in details and passwords for every one of these accounts.
For my clients, I find creating an Excel file containing all log-in criteria really helps, especially as revalidation is such a long and ongoing process where you may not need your log-in details for months at a time.
Wherever you choose to store your passwords, always ensure they are kept securely and are password-protected.
3 Learn the four domains of Good Medical Practice – and use them
I am often asked what supporting information to provide during the appraisal and revalidation process.
There are six types of supporting information doctors are expected to provide and discuss at their appraisal at least once in each five-year cycle.
They are continuing professional development, quality improvement activity, significant events, feedback from colleagues, feedback from patients, review of complaints and compliments.
Within each of these areas, the key to success is to match your evidence to the four domains set out by the GMC.
- Knowledge, skills and performance;
- Safety and quality;
- Communication, partnership and teamwork;
- Maintaining trust.
Print them out. Stick them next to your computer as you go through the process.
This means you can keep your supporting information relevant and ensure you get it right first time. To learn what is expected in each of these four domains, the GMC has prepared guidance.
It is on its website at www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/good_medical_practice.asp and I recommend every doctor familiarises themselves with it before starting collating their information.
4 Talk to your appraiser about the type and amount of supporting info they are looking for
No two appraisals are the same and the supporting information requirements may differ from individual to individual or from organisation to organisation.
Talk with your appraiser prior to the appraisal. Ask about their expectations from the appraisal and whether there are any focal points you need to pay extra attention to.
Make sure they understand the process and software being utilised for your particular appraisal. They will be able to direct you on any organisation-specific criteria you are expected to provide during the appraisal or individual appraisal needs they want to see addressed.
Understand from them what they are looking for and gauge their supporting information expectations.
5 Think quality, not quantity
I am often asked how much supporting information to provide during the appraisal process.
As every appraisal differs, it is difficult to recommend how much information is a good amount. A good rule of thumb is to focus on quality not quantity.
It is tempting to submit as much information as possible to your appraiser. However, this may oversaturate them with unnecessary amounts of information which they will need to read through and reflect on.
If they are constrained on time, they will not be able to read everything, which may delay the appraisal process for you.
Similarly, too little information may result in your appraisal or revalidation recommendation being deferred.
So think about how relevant the information will be to your appraiser, put quality of information and evidence over quantity and concentrate on key pieces of supporting information from each category that best demonstrate your fitness to practise.
Remember to upload and correctly label information, as this will save the RO lots of time when reviewing your portfolio.
6Learn to love your scanner
One of the most common questions I am asked is how do I prepare my supporting information for my appraisal?
Most appraisals require you to submit your supporting information for appraisal purposes using an e-portfolio.
I would recommend that any information you may wish to use during the appraisal process is scanned and stored as an electronic document as you go along throughout the year.
Before scanning, ensure that any documentation is signed off and any patient identifiable content is removed or blacked out from the document.
As you file each document, tag them with which of the six areas it will support and which of the four domains it fits into. This will save you hours of time when coming to submit.
7 Complete your parts, then let your Responsible Officer take over
Revalidation occurs every five years and will encompass all the information you have provided during your annual appraisals within this time.
You do not need to submit a recommendation yourself, you will receive a revalidation recommendation letter from your RO once they have reviewed your supporting information and the content of your past five appraisals.
If you have conducted five annual appraisals in line with the guidance provided by the GMC and your RO is pleased with the information provided, you should be granted a recommendation.
If the RO feels you have not provided enough information in order to receive a revalidation recommendation, you will be given the opportunity to submit further information.
8 Find out early on who can help you in this process
Your designated body is the organisation you are connected to that provides you with your annual appraisal and revalidation recommendation.
It is your responsibility to notify the GMC of your current designated body. If you are not sure who your designated body is, the GMC has a useful tool that you can use on its website at www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/revalidation/12387.asp.
Each designated body has its own RO who will review the doctors that fall under the designated body’s appraisal information in order to make revalidation recommendations.
For those not connected to any organisation, you are still required to revalidate, so you must ensure you contact the GMC, who will be able to assist you in finding an RO to provide you with a revalidation recommendation.
9 Get additional help
Not everybody is a computer whiz or has the time to spend up-loading information to websites.
If you require administrative support, do not be afraid to ask for it. The appraisal software providers often allow you to nominate an administrator who can upload information on your behalf.
Many of the doctors I have worked with on revalidation valued being able to hand over the administrative side of revalidation so they could continue to spend time with their patients.
10. Do not forget about revalidation as soon as you have submitted your information
Do not simply breathe a huge sigh of relief and forget about revalidation for the next five years after submitting your information.
Not only does the next one come around quickly, but each annual appraisal contributes towards your overall recommendation. So get into a habit of scanning and filing any supporting information as you go along.
By preparing for your appraisal each year in good time and supplying adequate supporting information, your revalidation recommendation will be a much less stressful process next time round.
Beverley Boon (right) is chief executive at Fitness to Practise, a company providing support, guidance and training in all aspects of revalidation