Do I Need An Appraisal As An F3 Or Locum Doctor?
If you’re starting locum work for the first time, you might not be sure about what an appraisal is, whether you need one, or even how to go about arranging one.
The GMC state’s that you must complete a medical appraisal every year as a doctor and it forms a key part of the ‘Revalidation Process’, which happens every five years.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what an appraisal actually is, how it links to revalidation, whether you actually need to do one as an F3 or locum doctor, and whether you can get away without doing one.
📖 What's the purpose of an appraisal?
An appraisal is an annual meeting between you and a ‘responsible officer’, ‘suitable person’ or an appraiser, that your designated body has assigned to you. These are doctors who the GMC have approved to make appraisal and revalidation recommendations. In these meetings, you will need to show proof of your clinical and professional development for each year.
You do this through the process of collecting and reflecting on evidence throughout the year that supports your own Professional Development Plan (PDP) and shows that you are continuing to meet the principles set out in the GMC’s Good Medical Practice.
We’ll guide you further on what evidence you’ll need to collect as well as share with you our top tips for collecting these, in our separate article “How to ace your medical appraisal” which you can find here.
🤔 What’s the difference between an appraisal and revalidation?
Your appraisal is an annual event to show that you are meeting the requirements set by the GMC, a full breakdown of what this consists of can be found in our article here.
The revalidation process is the process by which the GMC confirms your fitness to practice, and subsequently confirms the continuation of your license to practice medicine within the UK. This occurs every 5 years and uses the evidence you supplied in your annual appraisal
☑ Is an annual appraisal mandatory?
Your annual medical appraisal is a mandatory annual requirement as set out by the GMC. They state “Annual appraisal: Appraisal is a key part of revalidation. It should be developmental and assurance focused, and is not a pass or fail exercise. You must participate in appraisal every year unless there are clear and reasonable mitigating circumstances that prevent you from doing so.”
🏃️ Can I get away with not doing one? 💨
We wouldn’t recommend it personally. It’s a mandatory GMC requirement after all.
But with the intention of being unbiased, we have heard of many doctors in their F3 years who get away without doing an appraisal. These doctors will apply for specialty training immediately after F3 and qualify for an ARCP next August.
Although the majority do get away with this, occasionally we do hear stories of doctors who get called out for this at the time of revalidation. So if you want to take the risk then that’s down to you, but we would personally not recommend it.
Additionally, do be aware that if you’re planning to do an F4 year, then most agencies will require proof that you’ve had an appraisal done in your F3 year. So that’s something to bear in mind if you’re planning on locuming for a couple of years or more after F2.
🤝 What happens during the appraisal itself?
Although this might sound like a scary meeting, it’s actually pretty informal. But do bear in mind that the appraisal meeting itself does vary considerably depending on your appraiser.
In the meeting itself, with your appraiser facilitating, you will discuss the scope and nature of your day to day work, your previous ARCP or appraisal outcome (PDP), and the evidence that you have collected to show that you are meeting the GMC’s guidance.
One of the aims of this discussion is also to give you time to focus on the achievements and challenges that you met this year, and how they have affected your scope of practice in terms of your own career goals (i.e. how they relate to your PDP and long term goals) as well as how they have brought change to your clinical practice for the better.
At the end of your appraisal will work with your appraiser to create a PDP for the next year. Together you will identify goals, tasks, and opportunities for you should work on to reach your educational, clinical and career aspirations.
🕵️ Who does your appraisal?
Doctors in training programmes or in substantial posts (i.e. Trust-Grade & Clinical Fellows) will automatically be enrolled to have one completed by their designated bodies.
However, If you decide to work as a locum doctor, you are responsible for arranging your own annual appraisal. This will either be through the Trust bank that you're working with or your main locum agency, depending on who you do the majority of your locums with. They will also act as your designated body with the GMC.
Some locum agencies will have a large in-house appraisal team and will assign you their own responsible officer, who will oversee your appraisal process. The team are usually really knowledgeable and helpful and will be able to explain the whole process, including what they will expect you to achieve by your scheduled appraisal meeting, and answer any of your other questions.
Other locum agencies will instead outsource the appraisal requirements to various independent appraisal companies. This will not normally affect the appraisal process but can make it slightly more expensive for you.
Trust Staff Bank
As Trust’s staff bank, your assigned appraiser will normally be one of the consultants (often an educational supervisor). Your appraisal process through them tends to be a little less formal, and you can schedule to meet up with your appraiser whenever you can both find the time.
Something to note is that many Trust banks have started to introduce a minimum shift requirement for their doctors to qualify to have them act as their designated body and provide an appraiser. The exact requirement is trust specific, but this usually equates to around 3 shifts a week.
🏥 What about if I don’t have a designated body?
If you’re only working infrequently with your Trust bank, or are doing a job outside of the NHS scope, then you might not have a designated body that you can connect with.
This can be annoying, but there are some workarounds.
1) Reach out to consultants who you know directly
If you’re on good terms with a consultant who is also qualified to be an appraiser, see the guidance here on this. You could try asking if they would be willing to help you with your appraisal process. We know of many doctors who have gone through this route, however, the success is largely down to your relationship with the consultant.
2) Leaving the bank and joining a locum agency
There are no minimum requirements for shifts when it comes to qualifying for an appraisal with an agency. So if you’re only planning on working a couple of shifts a week, then this could be a good option for you.
Just be aware that there is a lot of bureaucracy in this one, and often Trusts will not allow you to work at their hospitals through a locum agency for at least 6 weeks after leaving their staff bank.
3) Find an independent appraisal company and complete the GMC’s ‘Annual Returns’ form
This is probably the most expensive route and will cost around £500. You can find the GMC Guidance about doing this here. However, this might be the only option for a minority of doctors who work privately or outside the scope of the NHS.
💰 Is there a fee for appraisals?
If you’re working with a Trust bank, this will be done for free.
If you’re going through an agency, there will normally be a cost. We usually see this quoted between £250 and £500 depending on whether the agency has its own in-house appraisal team or whether they need to outsource it.
It’s worth noting, that many agencies have started offering discounted and, occasionally, free appraisals should you work a specified number of shifts with them. So make sure to ask about this during the registration process as it could end up saving you a few hundred pounds.
📚 How do I prepare for my appraisal?
When you first start working as a locum doctor, we recommend arranging a conversation with your responsible officer, or their team, to discuss the process, key dates and what evidence they’re expecting you to collect.
Your agency will normally contact you when the time you’re due for your appraisal is approaching. For most, this will be in June or July, a year from when your last appraisal was.
Here’s a summary of our top tips for preparing for your appraisal:
👉 Read our article “How to ace your annual appraisal as an F3 or locum doctor” for advice on what evidence you’ll need to collect for your medical appraisal and how to do this efficiently
👉 Ask your agency or Trust bank what the appraisal process is for them to make sure you’re going to meet their specific requirements during the year
👉 Budget for the cost of your appraisal, and book it early. Consultants prefer lots of notice because they get booked up quickly
👉 Allow plenty of time to fill in your appraisal form with your portfolio evidence. Most agencies use the Medical Appraisal Guide 4.2 (MAG 4.2) form, which can be found here.
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