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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Putting PDPs into practice


Peer groups

The first step in drawing up a PDP is for each psychiatrist to produce his or her own draft. Subsequently, this document is discussed and its contents agreed with a peer group. The purpose of the peer group is to review the objectives of each individual in turn and to identify practical ways in which these may be achieved. Each peer group would have three core sets of functions.

(a)  Objectively referencing the work done by individuals to construct a PDP and using it as a framework for learning by:
  • reviewing and identifying their learning needs at each of the four levels and across the four domains of knowledge to enable individuals to fulfil their clinical responsibility effectively
  • analysing their goals for learning against realistic appraisal of what actions are likely to improve quality for their patients and/or contribute to the development of new knowledge and skill
  • developing CPD objectives to achieve their goals
  • documenting progress
  • identifying and remedying blocks to progress
  • reviewing and evaluating what is achieved with a view to beginning a fresh cycle.
(b)  Supporting members in achieving their goals and objectives.
(c)  In some circumstances, providing CPD that is oriented towards helping group members to achieve their PDPs.
Usually, a peer group should consist of between three and six people, although, occasionally, circumstances may dictate that only two or up to eight psychiatrists form a group. What matters is that each individual has available objective opinion and support against which to test his or her plan and monitor progress in settings that permit a positive culture for learning.
Members of peer groups may be colleagues working in the same organisation, from within the same psychiatric speciality or they could be colleagues from outside a single health care organisation. Members should be chosen who do not feel uncomfortable with each other. All members of a peer group should be involved in drawing up PDPs and reviewing them with each other. Each peer group should meet regularly. The frequency of meeting should be at least twice a year and sufficient to enable each member to develop and discuss construction of his or her own PDP, carry out within-year monitoring, reflect on achievements and gaps at the year-end and, thereby, begin the cyclical process once again. Progress made should be recorded in the plan.
The peer group must provide a supportive, rather than a critical environment for all the members. The group should provide ideas and be imaginative in helping each individual to overcome barriers to achieving objectives. Peers must strive to make each other feel secure enough to discuss openly positive abilities, progress and achievements as well as any problems, gaps and mistakes, and learn from them. The techniques that are likely to prove appropriate tools in this set of professional relationships include:
  • focused discussion
  • reflection
  • positive critiquing
  • appraisal

Use of appraisal in constructing & executing PDPs

In this policy, appraisal is considered to be an appropriate educational tool for conducting CPD needs assessment, monitoring and review within a managed approach to CPD that employs PDPs to provide a clear framework.

Therefore, appraisal, as such a tool, is distinguished from the more formal annual appraisal process that is proposed by the Department of Health for all doctors. Part 2 of the document "Good Psychiatric Practice: CPD" (Council Report 90) provides more information by way of definition of these processes.

Recording a PDP

The psychiatrist named on a PDP will 'own' it. Therefore, individuals should take responsibility for undertaking sufficient preparatory work on drafting their own PDP prior to discussions with their peer group. The information generated during the appraisal activities and peer group meetings should also be recorded in the plan. Ideally, each member of the group should use a similar format for this process and the recording mechanism should allow colleagues' advice, the agreed plan for CPD activities, progress and achievement at the year-end to be documented. The College suggested forms for developing and recording a PDP, together with a checklist of issues, processes and outcomes that psychiatrists might wish to review are available via CPD index of this website.


Ownership & confidentiality

Ordinarily, all discussions within the peer group meetings must be confidential. However, in the unlikely situation that information comes to light of behaviour that is illegal or puts patients at risk, individuals will have to act. NHS trusts will be developing clear procedures to support reporting information of this nature and these procedures must be followed. The majority of psychiatrists will find it helpful to take a sheet summarising their PDP, which is validated by their peers and the College, to appraisal and/or performance review meetings with their employers. Others may prefer to take their entire PDP to their annual appraisal. In either case, sight of the PDP is likely to facilitate discussion and provide evidence of meeting their CPD objectives, but this is not seen as a compulsory requirement of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. However, it is possible that, in the event of a query over appraisal or revalidation of a psychiatrist, employers or the GMC may require the psychiatrist to submit his or her entire PDP for scrutiny.

The additional work required

The PDP process will take time and effort. It does, however, bring together many activities on which individuals are already spending time. In the medium to long term, the benefits should outweigh the costs by:

  • enabling individuals to overcome barriers in their own performance, e.g. identifying a gap in knowledge, skill or attitude and generating a plan of action to deal with it
  • supporting individuals in addressing organisational barriers, e.g. highlighting problems in an administrative system and generating a plan to communicate this to the service manager, which will enable them to improve the system
  • reducing stress by providing a forum at which problems can be shared and individuals supported.
Suggestions for a personal checklist for a PDP and suggested forms for use when compiling a PDP are available via CPD index of this website.
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