Whether you are a newly qualified GP or further on in your career, it can be very useful to be part of a CPD group.
These groups offer peer support and a forum for exchanging news, views and clinical knowledge.
I helped to establish a 'newly qualified GP group' on completing my training in Bath, Somerset, and found it a very valuable experience, both professionally and socially.
Joining an established CPD group could be an option if you have contacts, but if you are newly qualified or move into a new area, here are some useful resources and tips for starting a group yourself.
The GMC guidance1 on CPD suggests the term covers any learning that helps you to maintain what you already do well and to improve your performance as a GP.
This could be through learning a new skill or acquiring new knowledge, or it could be developing your attitude or behaviour in an area of your practice.
The method by which you develop could be a formal or an informal activity, as long as you can prove it helps you to improve the quality and standard of care you give patients.
CPD groups are an excellent way to share knowledge among peers and count towards your appraisal credits.
Strengths and experience
It was a fairly straightforward decision for our CPD group to form from ex-registrars hoping to keep each other sane and up-to-date.
It was daunting to go from the safety of training into the challenging world of being a GP, but the group provided a forum for us to bounce around ideas and concerns.
If you work in a practice where there are a few salaried GPs who are keen, or perhaps a group of partners from neighbouring practices, this could be a good option. For locums, there is often a network in the area to meet others in a similar position.
Aim for a group with varying experience and strengths if possible; for example, including a GP with an interest in paediatrics and another with an interest in engaging with the CCG. This way there will be a broad base from which to draw educational topics in future.
Our group were all members of the RCGP on qualification and used the First5 tools available online to facilitate our meetings.2 First5, the RCGP's package for newly qualified GPs, aims to encourage peer support, mentoring, engagement with the college and career progression. It has a five-year timeframe to enable new GPs to have extra support through the first revalidation cycle.
If your group consists of more experienced GPs, the RCGP has resources that could be of use regarding standards required for CPD in preparation for appraisal and revalidation.
There are also online learning modules that could be a starting point for preparing a teaching session for the group.
When and where
It is important for the group to agree on the timing and frequency of meetings. For example, if you have a group of GPs returning after maternity leave, a daytime meeting could be a better option.
Monthly or bimonthly meetings could be agreed in a setting that suits the majority - my group rotated around each other's houses and the host provided food for the group.
The social chat could then happen with food, leaving the education for well-fuelled brains.
At each meeting, we tended to spend about an hour and a half on educational topics, but this could be negotiated to suit all members.
A formal agenda is useful to keep everyone focused on the goals of the session.
We spent the end of each meeting discussing our learning needs and agreeing on topics or guidelines to discuss at the following meeting.
Each member had some responsibility for contributing and we tried to make the contributions SMART for appraisal.
One member would take minutes and circulate them with the agenda for the next meeting. We found this helped when writing up our reflections on the meetings for appraisal.
The GP community
There is scope for these groups to be affiliated with local GP education trusts and in the case of First5, it is actively encouraged. Each deanery has a First5 contact and there are meetings to facilitate networking, usually with an educational element.
I would encourage anyone to start a CPD group - it is a great way to learn and develop good professional relationships within the GP community.
- Dr St John Wright is a salaried GP in Bristol
1. GMC. Continuing professional development: guidance for all doctors. London, GMC, 2012.