some were interested in joining existing SDLGs or setting up new ones (depending on availability); others were simply interested in the opportunity to network with other sessional GPs and/ or hear a specific speaker.
Key findings Here is a list of the key
findings of the study. ■■ Professional isolation is a major issue. Sessional GPs reported feeling ‘left out of the loop’ with regard to QOF updates, drug updates and CPD opportunities.
■■ Sessional GPs who are new to an area, or work as locums, work for an out-of-hours service, work fewer hours or work in rural practice face additional risk.
■■ Many UK organisations provide support to sessional GPs in a variety of forms, from tailored events and CPD support to funding for SDLG meetings, but this is not consistent across the UK and there seems to be little cohesion between these organisations. Some Deaneries, PCTs and GP practices have a good track record of involving and supporting sessional GPs; and appraisal and revalidation are proving a useful stimulus here – but again this is consistent across the UK.
■■ Some sessional GPs feel trapped financially, as their insurance costs could rise significantly if they worked more than two sessions a week. Therefore paying subscriptions to organisations, paying for courses and missing sessions to attend CPD events seemed out of reach, or unreasonable to them. ■■ Sessional GPs face
■■ RMBF, Self-Directed Learning Groups for Sessional GPs – www.rmbf.org
■■ RMBF, A Guide to Setting Up an SLDG – www.support4doctors.org
■■ Durham University, Support for Sessional GPs – www.rmbf.org
practical challenges, including funding for meetings, catering, venues and speakers; the need for a proactive individual or individuals to take a lead and commit time to organising meetings; childcare and work commitments; the sometimes ‘underground’ nature of SDLGs (meaning the existence of individual SDLGs may not be widely known); and the lack of opportunity to network with sessional GPs to find or start groups.
■■ Benefits reported in the research by both sessional GPs and organisations working with them, included reduced professional isolation, improving learning and idea sharing and CPD, enhanced confidence, better opportunities for networking and personal support (in relation to employment as well as clinical issues) and improved assistance with appraisal and ultimately revalidation.
Overall the findings suggest that, despite progress in a number of areas in recent years, several
issues still exist, such as: ■■ a lack of national cohesion from support organisations
■■ problems in identifying sessional GPs in any one area
■■ fewer/no records of local SDLGs or an easy way for sessional GPs to find groups
■■ non consistent funding and arrangements for ‘hub’ meetings for sessional GPs around the UK.
Potential solutions There are a range of measures that could enhance support for sessional GPs, including:
■■ taking simple, practical measures, eg, providing a box for sessional GPs to tick when registering on a performers list, to opt into receiving CPD information from deaneries and other relevant organisations, rather than allowing data protection to block access to useful information.
■■ each stakeholder organisation designating a lead Council member or equivalent to take on a watching brief and consider, when the organisation is introducing new policies and procedures, what the impact is likely to be for sessional GPs. This is likely to be particularly important for the new GP consortia.
login area for visitors to submit group details.
■■ continuing initiatives to periodically ‘pump prime’ the development and revitalisation of SDLGs in each region – for instance through an initial set of ‘hub’ and ‘spoke’ meetings; arranging an online ‘meeting place’ for sessional GPs; and through a resource bank and/or training for current and potential SDLG leaders/facilitators.
The bigger picture This study suggests that there is a genuine need among a neglected group within the medical workforce. As sessional GPs are an important group within
The findings also suggest that self-directed learning groups (SDLGs) have value, are easy to establish and maintain, and provide a sustainable model on which to build career development
■■ supporting doctors with skills training and guidance on the management of groups, such as running meetings, dealing with conflict and setting up a group.
■ ■ creating national resources to assist with record- keeping for appraisal and revalidation, such as templates for recording minutes of meetings, reflective learning, etc.
■■ establishing and maintaining regional registers of SDLGs, populated by local groups, working in partnership with the deanery and/ or GP consortia. This could be facilitated by a national website with a
primary care, the RMBF hopes that these findings will encourage discussion about the needs of sessional GPs and encourage national policies and professional structures which will support sessional GPs in their careers. The findings also suggest
that SDLGs have value, are easy to establish and maintain, and provide a sustainable model on which to build career development. With wider professional support for SDLGs more sessional GPs could take advantage of these benefits, which would be better for patients, and the profession, as well as the sessional GPs themselves.
The RMBF would like to thank the Sessional GP Advisory Panel and all the colleagues who contributed to this project.
Steve Crone is chief executive of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund.
SESSIONAL GP | VOLUME 3 | ISSUE 2 | 2011 | UNITED KINGDOM www.mps.org.uk
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