50 hours you’ll never get back

5 minute read

The new CPD requirements are an unpaid week’s worth of box-ticking – but we’ll suck it up like we always do.

We are now in the last few months of what will probably be our last “triennium”.

Have you dotted all your Is and crossed your Ts in completing your three-year CPD requirements?

I know I haven’t. Not that I haven’t done enough professional development to last a lifetime but I just haven’t logged it yet on the ACRRM site. Let’s face it – I’d make a hopeless accountant.

As you can imagine from this admission, the thought of facing the new CPD program with its annual set of requirements including 50 hours of documented learning just fills me with dread.

Of course, continued learning is important, and it is totally correct that doctors be required to stay up to date – but seriously, could they make it any harder?

Fifty hours with prerequisite minimums in three different categories including performance review, educational activities and measuring outcomes. Not to mention the drawing up of a plan for your year’s activities before you even start.

Both ACRRM (who has already implemented the 150 hour minimum for this triennium) and the RACGP are muttering reassurances – “don’t worry, you’re doing all this stuff already” and “we’ll help you through it” – but the reality is the understanding, documentation and responsibility of ensuring that all the CPD pre-requisites are met represents a huge added bureaucratic burden to our already overburdened professional lives. This is a box-ticking exercise in the extreme.

In a profession that prides itself on being evidence-based I have yet to see any evidence at all that 50 hours is the magic number of hours that will ensure a GP is adequately professionally developed every year, or that spending at least a quarter of that time on performance review is vital to ensuring they are fit to remain a registered medical practitioner. Where did these figures come from? Not someone in clinical practice that’s for sure.

Medicolegal data tells us that doctors who do less CPD are more likely to get into strife. But that’s an observational study. It is not cause and effect – it does not follow that the lack of CPD is the problem. It speaks much more to the type of doctor who does less CPD, the type of doctor who is not interested in staying up to date or engaging in ongoing education – these are the doctors who are more likely to make a mistake.

Is there any evidence at all that forcing all doctors to work through all this additional CPD documentation will change these high-risk doctors to becoming less of a threat to the community? Can you change a person’s attitude through this type of directive. If not, then why the hell are they doing this? Why are they penalising the majority when they can’t even demonstrate improvement in the tiny minority they are obviously targeting.

As I say I’m not against ongoing education – God knows, I’m involved in the industry in my work for Healthed – but I truly resent having to become an upskilled clerk and spending valuable time ensuring I’m on top of all of the CPD categories, which activity fits where and whether I have done enough audits, surveys, case-based discussions to fulfil some condition that a committee has arbitrarily deemed vital to me remaining on the register. It just makes me despair.

I am sure this time next year, this personal rant against the ever-increasing burden of bureaucracy will be long forgotten. I will have just sucked it up, like we GPs always do, and I’ll be updating my CPD portfolio and phrases such as CPD home and measuring outcomes will be part of my everyday vernacular. But it really isn’t right.

Continuing professional development should be a support to both the profession and the professionals. It should be something that not only enhances our clinical practice but also enhances our enjoyment of the practice of medicine.

These imminent changes to the CPD program are just the latest demonstration of how regulation rules.

CPD has always been a program that aims to improve the quality of medicine that doctors practise. It seems it has now been manipulated to become a means of regulating and disciplining doctors to ensure we jump through yet more recordable hoops to satisfy some committee’s idea of what is good for us.

For the colleges to say they will help streamline the process is of little comfort. CPD has become its own entity, the fact that the medical council is insisting we spend more than a full-time working week each year solely on (unpaid) CPD is a testament that no amount of streamlining will make this transition anything but a chore. And let’s face it, when have the Colleges – especially the RACGP – ever made bureaucracy easy?

There’s been a lot of talk about the looming GP shortage and how general practice can be made into a more attractive specialty option for medical graduates.

I just can’t see how increasing the bureaucratic burden to an already stretched and overwhelmed workforce in any way helps build the appeal of general practice. For me, it seems to be a sure-fire way to fuel the undercurrent of resentment and disaffection that I know is out there among GPs, especially older GPs like me. Bring on the revolution … or retirement.

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