COVID-19: a changing approach to appraisals

This guidance outlines the adjustments made to medical appraisals during the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on your health and wellbeing.

Location: Scotland
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 22 March 2021

Appraisals during COVID-19 in Scotland

BMA Scotland and the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have been working together with the GMC, NES and the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) on a consistent approach to medical appraisal, and in particular the impact it has on the wellbeing and morale of the medical workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our work aims to ensure that appraisals continue to have a wellbeing focus, and do allow flexibility to either reduce the burden surrounding their preparation, or to delay appraisal and, possibly, defer revalidation.

We know that there are doctors who will benefit from appraisal this year, but that for some it will feel like a burden, causing additional distress.

We are also aware that the awareness of GMC requirements for revalidation, and of COVID-related flexibility around the process, varies between and within NHS Boards.

Top tips for medical appraisals during COVID-19

  • The most recent guidance from the CMO recommends that you should have an appraisal in the next 12 months, but there is some flexibility for delay in the short term.
  • GMC guidance says that where postponing an appraisal means that a recommendation for revalidation cannot be made, that does not mean any adverse conclusion will be drawn. Responsible officers can make a recommendation to revalidate a doctor with less than five appraisals, providing all the required supporting information has been collected and discussed earlier in the revalidation cycle.
  • Lack of evidence will not stop the appraisal submission. All that needs to be stated on SOAR is ‘Nothing to submit’ and you are able to move to the next section.
  • GMC core requirements pertaining to patient safety are still required for appraisal. Therefore, compliments, complaints or adverse events and reflections should be uploaded, and the health and probity statements should be completed.

  • The appraisal itself should focus on your wellbeing and can be used as an opportunity to reflect on the experience and learning from working during the pandemic. The appraiser should signpost you to the range of online wellbeing support materials, and those available at local and national levels, as well as making you aware of the new confidential Workforce Specialist Service implemented to support doctors with mental health problems. 

  • It is important to remember that appraisal is a contractual requirement led by Health Boards and part of a wider regulatory process of revalidation overseen by the GMC. Therefore, all bodies involved must work together to make appraisal an effective and beneficial process that includes reflection, professional and personal development.