How to write a focused PDP

Producing a good PDP will help with your appraisal, advises Professor Rodger Charlton.

Your PDP should address specific areas in which you want to develop
Your PDP should address specific areas in which you want to develop

Creating your PDP

  • Identify your learning needs
  • Be specific
  • The PDP should reflect your needs as a GP and your practice
  • Overlap your PDP with your practice's PPDP
  • Collect evidence that you have undertaken learning
  • Think of learning objectives that are outside your comfort zone

Identifying learning needs

A PDP should be about identifying learning or development needs. For example, learning about newer anticoagulants other than warfarin, or preparing to learn a new skill, such as how to operate the spirometer for your COPD clinic, or taking a refresher course on reading ECGs.

The PDP should therefore be specific, rather than talking generally of clinical update. It should be about you and your needs as a GP and the practice where you work.

The RCGP revalidation guide states: 'A PDP consists of a number of objectives. There is no minimum or maximum number of objectives. Most GPs will set themselves between three to five objectives that reflect the breadth of their practice, responsiveness to the health needs of their local population, and their own development needs.'

SMART

Appraisal portfolios ask you to check whether your PDP is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic (and Relevant) and Time-bound.

Think of specific areas in which you would like to develop. Remember, your PDP is about you and your development and role as a GP.

Many GPs have areas of special interest or want to develop special interests, so include these in your PDP. For example, you might want to become a GP trainer or improve your skills in minor surgery.

The outcomes should be measurable, for example, attending a GP trainers' course or a minor surgery course, so your appraiser knows you have completed your PDP.

At the end of each year, when you complete your PDP template online, remember to include the evidence that the outcomes have been achieved.

Your PDP may change

Many GPs feel that once they have written their PDP, that is it for the year. However, things change. A new task may arise at your practice which requires new knowledge or skills, for example, the recent shingles vaccination programme or a new computer system. These need to be added to your PDP.

Collect appropriate evidence that you have undertaken learning and present these at your appraisal, explaining to your appraiser why the change happened.

Other less urgent matters can be carried over to the next year. GP registrars do this with their MRCGP ePortfolio, because their learning needs change during the year and they have a fluid PDP.

PDP is about you

You can take pride identifying your learning needs and fulfilling these needs, rather than creating a generalised, vague PDP.

A PDP may also be long term. For example, you may decide to do a master's degree and perhaps the various modules you are going to undertake can be added each year. Your PDP should, if possible, contain a variety of things that are relevant to your work and not just a master's degree.

Fulfilling your PDP objectives will lead to CPD and learning credits. It should also overlap with your practice, which should have a practice professional development plan (PPDP). This may be covering areas of the QOF, an audit or a new CQC protocol.

Appraisal

Your appraiser will read through all of the evidence in your portfolio and suggest some areas for your PDP, which will agree with much of what you have proposed.

Put some thought into it, rather than expecting your appraiser to come up with the ideas. After all, you will have to complete it and it should be a satisfying activity, covering areas in which you want to develop. In this way, you can put more into your practice and your patients will benefit. Avoid the temptation to create objectives that you are already good at and concentrate on areas where you know you need to increase your knowledge. Go on, write a meaningful PDP this year.

  • Professor Charlton is a GP and professor of primary care education at Nottingham University

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