How to Ace Your Annual Appraisal as a Locum
In August each year, you'll need to complete an appraisal. You'll need these appraisals to support your revalidation with the GMC, which happens every five years.
If you decide to work as a locum during your F3 year, you'll need to arrange your annual appraisal either through the Trust bank that you're working with, or through your main locum agency.
The bulk of the appraisal is running through your portfolio for the year, so this article will explain how to keep a great portfolio throughout your year of full-time locum work, and then how to prepare for your annual appraisal towards the end.
Who does your appraisal?
When you initially sign up with locum agencies, you’ll need to choose one specifically as your main agency to connect to as your designated body with the GMC.
This agency will have an assigned person who will act as your responsible officer, as part of the revalidation team, and who is responsible for overseeing your appraisal process. The revalidation teams in locum agencies are usually really helpful and knowledgeable about the process, so if you have any queries or concerns then don’t hesitate to reach out to them.
It’s worth noting there may be a handful of doctors who manage to avoid doing an appraisal. For example, some who start specialty training immediately after F3 could get their appraisal done by their next educational supervisor in August instead. However, the official guidance from the GMC states there must be a yearly appraisal, and most locum agencies require it anyway. So to ensure it doesn’t become an issue with the GMC later, it’s wise to make the (relatively small) effort to do an appraisal during your F3 year.
The Purpose of the Portfolio
During your locum work, it’s important to keep a portfolio from the beginning. This will help you make the most of your opportunities and reduce pressure later in the year when your appraisal is looming.
The purpose of your portfolio is to keep a record of evidence that will demonstrate during your appraisal that you’ve been meeting the requirements of Good Medical Practice.
Just for a refresher, here are the main points of the GMC’s Good Medical Practice domains:
Knowledge, skills, and performance
– Maintain your professional performance
– Apply knowledge and experience to practice
– Ensure that all documentation formally recording your work is clear, accurate, and legible
Safety and quality
– Contribute to, and comply with, systems to protect patients
– Respond to risks in safety
– Protect patients and colleagues from any risk posed by your health
Communication, partnership, and teamwork
– Communicate effectively
– Work constructively with colleagues, and delegate effectively
– Establish and maintain partnerships with patients
– Show respect for patients
– Treat patients and colleagues fairly and without discrimination
– Act with honesty and integrity
We recommend either finding a free online portfolio service to create yours. Alternatively, you could print some blank forms from the Royal Colleges of the specialty you’re working in.
Having paper forms can sometimes be easier as a locum, because they requires the person giving you feedback to write it down immediately, which means you’re not waiting on forms for a long time (or forms that may never return!).
There’s no minimum requirement for each activity like there is for training jobs. You just need to be able to show through your portfolio that you’re meeting the requirements of Good Medical Practice. This makes it a lot easier to keep a portfolio as a locum than it is in a training job.
Here’s what you’ll need to keep a portfolio of throughout the year:
– Keep records of formal and informal learning you’ve achieved. This could be through courses or departmental teaching you’ve attended. You could also reflect on any informal teaching you had, like ward-based teaching or case discussions. Try and make the most of any opportunities to get free teaching, as it can be more difficult to come by as a locum!
– Records also need to be kept of the online mandatory training you’ll do for the locum agency. Ask the agency for a copy of your completion certificate to include in your portfolio.
Quality Improvement Activity
– This requires active participation, evidence of reflection, and actions planned from the results of the activity. QI activity is not just clinical audits! Examples of QI activity you could do are service reviews against national data, case reviews or discussions, learning event analysis, audits of teaching programmes, or evaluating a piece of health policy. Sometimes these other types of QI activity can be a lot quicker and easier to achieve as a locum, as they don’t require you to be in one place for a long time. You could even do a case-based review or discussion in one shift!
Colleagues and Patient Feedback
– During each five-year revalidation cycle, you need to have collected one group of formal colleague feedback and one group of formal patient feedback.
– For the colleague feedback, this is usually done during Foundation training, or other training jobs, in the form of the TAB (Team Assessment Behaviour) or equivalent. So you may not need to collect this feedback during your locum year, as it’s not required for each yearly appraisal. However, if you are in a long-term locum position and can collect some feedback, it may help as evidence that you’re meeting the requirements of Good Medical Practice as above. It may also save you work in the future when it comes to your revalidation date.
Preparing for Your Appraisal
You should ask your agency about the process when you sign up with them to ensure you’re well prepared when the time comes. This may seem like a daunting prospect, but it’s actually very straightforward.
Your agency will normally contact you when the time you’re due for your appraisal is approaching. For most of you this will be in June or July, a year from when your last appraisal was.
Most agencies will require you to have an appraisal with one of their approved consultants, and will ask you to pay for this. It often costs between £300 and £400. You’ll normally get money off this once you’ve worked a certain amount of hours for the agency, so it’s worth asking about that when the time comes.
Here’s our advice for how to best prepare for your appraisal:
– Write down some realistic aims for your locum year, as your Personal Development Plan (PDP), and think about how you can achieve these during the year
– Ask your agency what the appraisal process is for them to make sure you’re going to meet their specific requirements during the year
– Keep a portfolio of evidence (as detailed above)
– Budget for the cost of your appraisal, and book it in 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
– Write some reflections on learning events that you’ve had to make sure you meet all the requirements of Good Medical Practice.
Our Top Tips in Summary
1) Write your (realistic!) PDP at the beginning of the year. This can be very brief
2) Keep a portfolio from the very beginning
3) Look for opportunities for CPD activity during your locum work
4) Save up for the cost, and prepare for your appraisal early
5) Reflect, reflect, reflect!
The above advice should make the process of keeping a portfolio and planning for an appraisal more efficient and much less stressful. That will allow you more time to concentrate on your work and enjoying your year.
This article is part of a wider series, supporting doctors like yourself with a comprehensive set of guides to ensure your F3 year is a success. These guides cover everything from initial planning, options for moving abroad, help with finding work, and tips for making the most of the experience. Click here to visit our F3 Resource Hub to explore the full list of guides and articles.
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