In March 2020, appraisal, revalidation and associated activities were suspended for the majority of doctors in the UK due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. This included the compiling of portfolios, recording of CPD, quality improvement and formal feedback.
In a time of national emergency, this action was taken to allow doctors time to focus their efforts on combatting the worst health crisis in living memory.
Due to restart in October 2020, the process of appraisal and revalidation will be slightly different to how it was before its suspension in March 2020, but will remain consistent with existing GMC guidance.
Medical Appraisal 2020 aims to;
The new processes not only place emphasis on the importance of the existing purposes of appraisals by supporting your personal and professional development as a doctor, it also focuses on how your health and wellbeing have been maintained during the COVID-19 crisis, and what further support you may require.
Medical Appraisal 2020 has been designed in a way that will be appropriate for doctors in all sectors and locations. In testing, the new processes have shown that the reduction in pre-appraisal documentary requirements mean that it is possible to prepare a focused written reflection in under 40 minutes.
In preparation, appraisers will be required to update their training to ensure that they have the resources and contacts necessary to provide the support you need as a doctor.
Due to the nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the restart of appraisals will be flexible for designated bodies and Responsible Officers, allowing for an appropriate response to the ongoing pandemic.
During the initial COVID-19 response, Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, informed all doctors that it would be reasonable to suspend the work that goes into the demonstration of continued competence, so that more focus could be given to what they do best.
Whilst maintaining professional standards is vitally important, it was safe to assume that doctors who are normally able to demonstrate that they keep up to date with clinical requirements and maintain fitness to practice would continue to do so. This helped to reduce the burden of non-urgent, non-clinical work, enabling doctors to use their time to rest and recharge, both mentally and physically.
For some doctors, appraisals were not suspended. In fact, in certain circumstances, they have been deemed a supportive intervention and continued in some designated bodies where they were particularly valuable in the context of the pandemic.
While it is appropriate to reduce the burden of demonstrating continued competence during a pandemic, it is not suitable to remove a supportive intervention that reaches every doctor and helps them to improve their patient care and plan for the future. The temporary suspension created an opportunity to review and rebalance the appraisal process to ensure it benefits both doctors and patients.
By restarting appraisals with a new process and emphasis on supporting doctors, appraisers have an opportunity to offer you support, even if you wouldn't usually ask for it. It's believed that this opportunity is needed all the more acutely because of the impact, disruption and distress that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important that all doctors receive protected time and a safe space to reflect with a trained peer. Restarting appraisals now will also allow Responsible Officers to make appropriate revalidation recommendations for those doctors who are now under notice, especially if they were already ready to revalidate.
Another benefit is bringing those doctors whose appraisals were suspended back in line with those whose appraisal systems never stopped.
On 17 March 2020, the GMC announced it was going to change revalidation dates for all doctors with a revalidation recommendation due before the end of September 2020. The desired effect was to reset the date for 12 months later. This decision was taken to relieve doctors, Responsible Officers and governance teams during the pandemic.
The GMC has removed the requirement for Responsible Officers to make a recommendation about your revalidation. As a doctor, you can carry on practising as before. You'll even receive an extra year in which to complete all necessary requirements for revalidation recommendation, should you require it.
If your medical appraisal is up to date and the governance information checks reveal that you are ready to revalidate, your Responsible Officer will be able to make a positive revalidation recommendation to the GMC.
If you have received notification that a decision has been made to revalidate you, you will receive a new revalidation date for five years after your last.
You may notice that there are more than five years before your next revalidation recommendation is due. This is because your date was initially moved forwards by twelve months, and five years were added to this date.
If your appraisal was due before the end of September 2020 and was postponed, your appraisal administration team has been advised to put postponed 2020/21 appraisals on hold during the period of suspension. You'll be contacted once a designated body has deemed it appropriate to restart the appraisals process.
If your appraisal was due before the end of September 2020 and was suspended, the process is slightly different. Your appraisal administration team have closed down 2020/21 appraisals, meaning the appraisal year will be missed. However, due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, this missing year will be accepted and recognised by the GMC.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected your ability to gather supporting evidence ahead of your appraisal, but don’t worry. Appraisers are being trained to adjust their expectations accordingly, taking into account the impact of the health crisis.
You will still be expected to provide a focused written reflection ahead of your appraisal and then discuss your reflections on what you have learned and what changes you have made as a result. You’ll also need to include any complaints or significant events in which you have been personally named or involved with since your last appraisal.
Due to the unpredictability of the current health crisis, it is impossible to predict how COVID-19 will affect the appraisal process in the future.
It is hoped that, by closely monitoring and evaluating the introduction of Medical Appraisal 2020, the appraisal process will evolve so that it can be as supportive and constructive as possible for all doctors.
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