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Appraisal Service Background

Since the inception of statutory appraisal for primary care doctors in the NHS in 2002, the delivery of appraisal in England has historically been a PCT led responsibility. In contrast, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were set up with deanery led provision. In Wessex, it was felt that the Deanery was ideally placed to provide high quality appraisal services with a strong educational emphasis. Under the umbrella of NHS Education South Central (NESC), the Primary Care Taskforce was set up for innovation within primary care across Oxford and Wessex Deaneries. One of the first projects undertaken was the development of a deanery led appraisal service in Wessex.

The Primary Care Taskforce appraisal project set out to offer the full appraisal package, including all the administrative functions associated with providing appraisal, and was commissioned initially by NHS Dorset in 2007/2008.  Following this successful pilot in Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole PCT and Portsmouth City teaching PCT commissioned the service for the 2008/2009 appraisal year, with the contracts for Hampshire PCT and the Jersey Primary Care Body coming on board in 2009/2010.  In addition, Guernsey started to commission a proportion of their appraisals from the service in 2010/11.  In April 2010, with the dismantling of the Primary Care Taskforce, the appraisal project was fully mainstreamed into Wessex Deanery. The increasing role in providing training in preparation for revalidation was recognised in the new title: the Wessex Deanery Appraisal and Revalidation Service (WDARS)

From some 350 appraisees in 2007/2008, the service has grown to the extent that it now provides the full range of appraisal services, and appraisal and revalidation training, to around 2,000 appraisees across Wessex.

Wessex Deanery Appraisal and Revalidation Service also works closely with the leadership and training of appraisers in the Isle of Wight and Southampton City PCT, with the aim of building increased consistency in offering robust, quality assured appraisals.  Within a very short time, it has become one of the biggest providers of appraisal in primary care in England, rivalling the size of NHS Education Scotland. The deanery led model pioneered in Wessex is being widely promoted as a potential solution to providing quality assured appraisal and revalidation services and other deaneries are starting to offer similar support.

The cornerstones of the project are the ability to deliver supportive, developmental and educationally valuable appraisal discussions, within a framework of encouraging individuals to provide increasing standards of supporting information in preparation for their revalidation portfolios.  Key to maintaining this balance is the training and development of the appraisers, through the local appraisal support groups, facilitated by local appraisal leads and appraisal and revalidation training events.  The Wessex Deanery Appraisal and Revalidation Service appraisers were amongst the first in the country to undergo competency based assessments to provide evidence of their fitness to appraise, and receive annual feedback on their individual areas for development.

Providing an appraisal and revalidation services is an innovative and exciting way for deaneries to maintain the high educational credentials of continuing professional development.  By reaching every practicing GP in the NHS in the participating PCT areas, with highly skilled appraisers, standards will be raised.  Revalidation will demand satisfactory engagement with appraisal on an annual basis.  This will be valuable to individual doctors, and to their patients, only if the appraisal they undergo is part of a consistent, robust, quality assured system.  

Wessex Deanery Appraisal and Revalidation Service aims to demonstrate value, and establish a model that works.  Ongoing research within the service will ensure that lessons are learned both from what goes well and when areas for development are identified.  The Deanery will work to keep appraisal and revalidation at the forefront of raising standards across Wessex.

Dr S R Caesar
Wessex Deanery Appraisal & Revalidation Lead

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