78% of GPs don’t understand the new CPD

Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

Felicity Nelson

writer

Felicity Nelson

Science journalist; strategy consultant

 

This week, Healthed asked GPs how they felt about the upcoming changes to CPD. The answer, for most, was: ‘not happy’.

With sweeping changes to CPD coming in January 2023, the majority of GPs still have no idea what is expected of them.

Of the 412 GPs that Helathed surveyed this week, 78% said they did not understand the new CPD requirements.

“I have no knowledge of what the CPD changes are and how I would meet them,” one GP said. “I don’t know where to best obtain information.”

Several GPs told Healthed that they simply did not have time to stay across the CPD changes.

“They are bringing in these major changes in the middle of a pandemic and the bulk billing crisis when everyone’s back is to the wall and no one has any spare bandwidth let alone financial or time resources. It’s just crazy town,” one GP said in response to the survey.

“It is perfectly understandable that some GPs are feeling frustrated or apprehensive about the Medical Board of Australia’s changes to CPD, which are applicable to all medical colleges, coming into effect on 1 January next year,” RACGP president Adjunct Professor Karen Price told Healthed.

“Even though we know our members engage in quality learning in their everyday work, the minimum requirements that need to be recorded are increasing substantially from previous years,” she said.

“We understand the pressures our members are under to deliver quality care, particularly during the pressures of a pandemic, and it’s our mission to deliver a seamless CPD experience in 2023.”

Two-thirds of GPs (66%) surveyed by Healthed said the CPD changes made them feel either ‘confused’, ‘stressed’ or ‘frustrated’ (or all three). Only 3% of GPs felt positive about the upcoming changes.

Under the new system, GPs will need to complete 50 hours annually of CPD to remain accredited. Healthed asked GPs: ‘Do you feel that 50 hours of CPD per year is achievable?’ 20% of GPs said no, while 40% of GPs said they were ‘unsure’.

Some GPs surveyed described the new system as “overly onerous” and “too demanding”. “The increased GP workload is not welcome”, one GP said.

Another GP said “We’ve had so much to learn with COVID-19 vaccinations, must-complete vaccination modules, then learn about antivirals … now you dump an extra 25 hours of reflection/performance review on top? Can we be paid for these hours of learning being mandated?”

More than one third of GPs surveyed (36%) had not yet completed their CPD for the current triennium, with four months remaining on the clock.

A quarter of GPs (25%) identified that their desired activities had been cancelled due to COVID over the past three years. A quarter of GPs (26%) also reported record-keeping problems.

One GP said, “I enjoy the actual ‘learning’ of CPD; but I hate the ‘secretarial’ duties that I need to follow and do. If only this could be fully automated.”

Almost half of GPs surveyed (44%) said there should be a concession available for CPD for part-time workers, rather than requiring them to complete 50 hours each year.

“Reviewing performance and the keeping of records adds extra work if you are part-time or semi-retired. We need a program designed for us,” one GP said.

“1 hour of CPD a week is a lot considering I am booked to see patients 12 hours a week,” said another.

What your colleagues are saying

“I’m sick of it all. This will drive many older GPs into retirement EARLY.”

“The whole circus of CPD ‘evolution’ since its initial introduction reminds me of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ masterpiece!.”

“Why change something that works? It creates even more problems for someone working in general practice.”

“These changes always seem to be decided by bureaucrats rather than doctors, especially GPs in clinical practice. So many of the requirements don’t make sense to me. I’ve always done ongoing education all my career. it’s just what you do.”

“It’s time-wasting and stressful bullshit. It’s enough to make me want to retire . It won’t stop crap doctors from still being crap.”

“It is like so many of the impositions that we deal with in general practice and healthcare in general, an insubstantial facade for the sake of appearances that creates more meaningless tasks that benefit nobody.”

“Confused!! And resent more logging and paperwork.”

“Why do they keep changing things? The constant changes contribute to thoughts of early retirement. The powers that be should try to encourage GPs not make it harder and reduce our numbers.”

Does anyone know what the changes are?

Since 2016 when the ill-fated PLAN was first dreamed up, GPs have been told that sweeping changes are coming to CPD.

Six years on, those changes have finally arrived, with the Medical Board of Australia setting January 2023 as the date for the big switch over.

The new system replaces the established CPD system run through the RACGP and ACRRM that GPs have known for decades.

It standardises CPD requirements for all Australian doctors, regardless of specialty or whether doctors are part-time or full-time.

Even GPs who have been paying close attention to CPD have struggled to figure out how these changes will affect them specifically.

Dr Charlotte Hespe, a Sydney GP, has been looking into the changes in detail over the past few weeks, after being asked to write a series of articles on the topic for Healthed (read Part 1 and Part 2 here).

“I’m much less confused since I’ve done all of that work!” she says. “And it did take me a while to try and understand what it was and how the differences align.”

On 26 August, Dr Hespe spoke on Healthed’s podcast about the CPD changes. “In that podcast, I probably explained two-thirds of the changes,” she says.

“The other third was still unclear to me too at that point. And I’ve subsequently gone and been able to find more. Although they announced the changes ages ago, it’s all been slowly emerging. So, over August, more information has come out to make it much clearer as to what is expected.”

We know that the main CPD change for GPs will be an increase in the number of hours they must spend on educational activities each year. The system will move from a points-based system calculated over three years to an annual hours-based system.

Under the new system, GPs must complete 50 hours per year instead of the current 130 points per triennium, which is typically translating to 65 hours across the entire three-year period. This new system therefore represents more than a full-time working week of education per year.

These 50 hours are carved up into compulsory sections for different types of CPD. These sections only partially correspond to the RACGP’s old system, so there is some confusion about what kind of activities fulfil the new criteria.

When Dr Hespe first looked at the new CPD system, it felt daunting too.

“When I looked at the active component, I thought, ‘Oh god, that’s going to be really hard.’ But then when I went into the detail of it, it’s actually a lot of the things people will be doing already but not ever getting credit for. A whole lot more activities that GPs just do anyway will be count as CPD.”

For instance, being a member of a committee, a GP supervisor, a medical educator, helping with exams, writing an article, reviewing an article or attending university courses count towards CPD, Dr Hespe says.

From the Medical Board’s registration standards document.

The new CPD system requires that GPs belong to a ‘CPD Home’ (although this is not mandatory until 2024). While the RACGP and ACRRM will become ‘CPD Homes’, it is unclear if there will be other options.

We do know that any new CPD homes will be accredited by the Australian Medical Council. The deadline for potential CPD Homes to apply to get accredited was this week, so we should know soon who they were.

Dr Hespe says the RACGP has already digested the CPD changes and built them into an app – MyCPD – that makes it really easy for GPs to figure out how to comply with the new requirements.

“For me, one of the biggest blurry bits is the professional development plan,” says Dr Hespe.

Under the new CPD system, there is a requirement that GPs develop a plan for what they want to learn in the coming year and then reflect on whether they managed to achieve what they set out to do.

However, The Medical Board says it is “not specifying what a Professional Development Plan looks like or what should be in it”.

The college’s MyCPD app “will basically take hold your hand through every bit of what you need to do and make it as easy and painless as possible,” says Dr Hespe.

The app will walk you through planning out a year’s-worth of CPD and award GPs five hours for having done a plan even if it didn’t take them five hours as it is forward accounting for the review process later on, she says.

The app will ask GPs what they usually do for CPD, and GPs can supply answers, such as ‘I like attending the Healthed updates’ or ‘I go to my local PHN nights’ or ‘I read a medical journal’.

“Then you put in how much time you spend on each activity and the app aligns it to the categories that the Medical Board has created,” says Dr Hespe.

If that is sufficient to meet the new CPD requirements, the app goes, ‘Ping, you’re fine! You don’t need to do any more’. Or it will say, for instance, ‘You need to do five hours of this kind of activity’, says Dr Hespe.

The educational activities that GPs are required to complete are not clearly defined by The Medical Board. However, the RACGP has included some examples in its FAQ sheet.

Examples of the range of CPD activities that GPs can participate in, as described in the RACGP’s FAQ sheet.

The MyCPD app links up to the existing CPD providers, such as Healthed, and automatically feeds data in, so it is intended to be a seamless, stress and admin-free process, says Dr Hespe.

“The biggest message is: Do not worry. Stick with us and see what we’ve done,” she says.

“This is not a college-imposed change,” says Dr Hespe. ”So, when the GPs say, ‘We want it to be stopped’, let me tell you, we’ve done our best. We tried to stop the legislation going through because we didn’t think it was in the best interests of GPs.”

“This is all medical board. This has nothing to do with ACRRM or the RACGP. So, we’ve just been like everybody else: we’ve just had to say, ‘Okay, so how do we most easily adapt what we’re currently doing and make it as easy as possible so everybody complies without it being in the least bit stressful?”

RACGP president Adjunct Professor Karen Price told Healthed that GPs can check out the frequently asked questions section on the college’s website and call the membership services team if anything is unclear.

“We are here to help our members every day and that includes understanding changes to CPD,” she said.

“We will give GPs the tools to manage their CPD hours and access CPD approved activities and resources online,” she said.

“Our aim is simple – to take the complexity out of CPD as much as possible so that our members spend more time on quality learning and less time on tiresome paperwork.”

The college will be launching an awareness campaign this month to provide GPs with more information, including educational sessions for GPs.

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Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

Felicity Nelson

writer

Felicity Nelson

Science journalist; strategy consultant

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