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How to prepare for your appraisal as a locum doctor

When you work as a locum doctor, you will need to arrange an annual appraisal to support your five-yearly revalidation with the General Medical Council (GMC) and to ensure you are following the standards laid out by good medical practice principles.

Your appraisal is a collaborative process, with a significant element of self-review, so during the year, it’s important to build up information that shows the scope and quality of your work. This will be key to demonstrating your fitness to practise for the GMC.

Underpinning every positive, successful appraisal is preparation, so in this article, we’ll guide you through the process.

What is a doctor’s appraisal?

Appraisals are required annually and can be completed at any time of the year. You can organise them either through your locum agency, or through the trust you’re working with. In a nutshell, your appraisal enables you to demonstrate your fitness to practise for revalidation and helps you to enhance the quality of your work through professional development and planning.

A significant part of appraisals involves going through your portfolio for the year, so ensure that you maintain a detailed record of all your locum work. As well as collecting this information, you’ll also need to be able to reflect on and discuss your portfolio, showing how it demonstrates your qualities in practice and highlights areas for improvement. Appraisals help to strengthen your quality of care and service, pinpointing areas to focus on and how this can be achieved.

So who will be your appraiser? It’s up to your designated body – in other words the trust, company or agency employing you – to help you access an appraiser. An assigned member of their revalidation team will act as your responsible officer (RO). This individual, supported by the wider team, will be highly knowledgeable about the steps you need to take and will be able to help with any questions or issues concerning your appraisal.

It’s important to remember that official GMC guidance requires a yearly appraisal, and most locum agencies will ask for this too. 

How to prepare for an appraisal as a locum doctor

The GMC expects you to collect, reflect on and discuss supporting information generated from your whole UK practice. There are essentially six types of information you need to collect for discussion at your annual appraisal. They are:

  • Continuing professional development (CPD). This encompasses all learning and experience beyond your undergraduate education or postgraduate training that enhances your performance as a locum doctor. CPD activities include any formal teaching organised by your department or hospital, informal teaching in a setting such as a ward or operating theatre, attending conferences and relevant courses. To efficiently record your learning and experiences as the year progresses, you may want to explore the numerous online tools and apps available, such as GP Tools or the FourteenFish Appraisal Toolkit.
  • Quality improvements. Make sure you take part in a range of practice quality improvement activities throughout the year. For example, you could participate in a national practice audit in your area, a case review or discussion. A review of your performance against benchmarks such as mortality or complication statistics would be highly relevant, as would a clinical audit or quality improvement project that measures the care you have been helping to deliver.
  • Significant events. Always discuss and reflect on any significant events and your insights gained during the year.
  • Feedback from patients. This isn’t needed for each yearly appraisal: just once during each revalidation cycle. Always use standard, validated questionnaires that are independently administered as this will help you to maintain objectivity and anonymity.
  • Feedback from colleagues. Although this process is only needed once in every revalidation cycle, it’s straightforward to organise with colleagues and many locums do it more frequently. It can provide strong evidence of compliance and good practice. Feedback from your colleagues must cover the whole of your practice and where possible should be anonymous. Your designated body is likely to have systems and processes in place so you can gather feedback using standard questionnaires that have been validated and are independently administered.
  • Compliments and complaints. You must declare and reflect on all formal complaints made about you at your annual appraisal. You should also reflect upon any complaints you receive that are not formal complaints, but you do not have to discuss every complaint at your appraisal. You should select those that evidence how you have developed your practice. Collecting, discussing and reflecting on compliments gives you the opportunity to affirm areas of strength in your practice and your positive impact on patient care.

When preparing for your appraisal, make note of your personal objectives – a set of realistic aims as a locum doctor. Create a personal development plan and think about what you can achieve in the coming year. Always ask your agency exactly what the appraisal process entails and how they can support you. And don’t forget to budget for the cost of an appraisal – you’ll need a trained appraiser to carry out your appraisal, which usually costs between £400 to £500.

Be prepared and learn from your appraisal

As a locum doctor, your yearly appraisal can seem daunting, but it needn’t. With the right preparation and approach, it can be a very positive learning experience that supports growth in your career. Allow yourself plenty of time to gather evidence and regularly write down incisive reflections on your year of practice. These steps will remove the stress factor and ensure you feel well prepared, whilst allowing you to continue concentrating on your work.

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