RACGP president-elect Dr Harry Nespolon is putting wheels in motion to devise a more meaningful CPD agenda after the College council agreed to dump the compulsory PLAN component.
Dr Nespolon said members should be free to choose from a suite of activities to find real value in their continuing education, instead of being forced into a box-ticking exercise.
“One of the issues that came up is that people practise in all sorts of different ways, and one-size-fits-all isn’t going to work,” he said.
“We need to develop a professional activity that is about people’s education, and, of course, we want to take the membership with us.”
The council this week voted to scrap PLAN, which was announced to general dismay in 2016 and adopted for the 2017-19 triennium, as a core compulsory unit of CPD.
Dr Nespolon said the College would work out a new CPD program that would satisfy the Medical Board and be valuable to members before the next triennium.
“We can show our QI and CPD program is legitimate and robust and will continue to develop that way,” he told The Medical Republic.
“Clearly one of those issues is that self-reflective activity will be part of the CPD, but it has to be something that the members will see the value in and will want to do,” he said.
“If the board wants to bring in something much more onerous we will deal with it when it arrives.”
Part of the original argument for introducing PLAN, which required members to assess their professional strengths, weaknesses and learning goals, was that it would avoid tougher requirements by the Medical Board.
“As a College we have got a responsibility to represent our members. The Medical Board will do what it’s going to do,” Dr Nespolon said.
“This is a professional activity. It’s not about the regulator. It’s about ensuring standards.”
GPs who had completed PLAN would still get their 40 Category 1 CPD points.
“If people have done it, they get points. If they haven’t done it, and they’d like to get the points, they can do it.
“If people don’t want to do it, they don’t have to.”
Dr Nespolon said the number of doctors who had not begun PLAN were possibly as many as those who had commenced the compulsory reflective exercise and submitted reports to the College.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about the numbers,” he said.
“It’s got to be meaningful for members and something they actually get some value out of, rather than just ticking off something they have to do.
“There will be, hopefully, a range of activities people will be able to undertake to complete their self-reflection.”
An unknown number of doctors quit the RACGP in protest at what they saw as high-handed behaviour by the college in imposing PLAN.
A former RACGP president, Dr Liz Marles, welcomed the decision to make PLAN voluntary, saying it was seen as an added burden at a time when GPs were already struggling with compliance demands.
“Fundamentally, what is really grinding people down is bureaucracy and jumping through hoops. We want a (CPD) system that is relatively painless for doctors to do, and it’s got to be useful,” she said.
“It’s also about the amount of change and how quickly it happened. To have a big change every triennium is not going to work.”
A voluntary PLAN could be useful for some doctors who needed a tool to identify shortcomings, but as adult learners most GPs knew where they needed to direct their education efforts.
“We also have to ask, what is the problem we are trying to fix,” Dr Marles said.