The format of the portfolio of supporting information is not prescribed by the GMC, so having an electronic portfolio is not a requirement for revalidation. However, an electronic portfolio will be helpful in allowing your supporting information to be stored one place, which can then be submitted electronically.
Most designated bodies require appraisal documentation to be sent electronically using, for example, the NHS England Medical Appraisal Guide (MAG) Form (this provides the template for other appraisal forms), so having your supporting information in electronic format is clearly advantageous.
Some items of supporting information, such as original complaint letters or compliment cards, which may be hand-written, are usually best kept in paper form and shared privately with your appraiser to maintain confidentiality. They can then be referenced anonymously by the appraiser in the summary of discussion area of the appraisal form.
Your RO may have expressed a preference among the available options, or may have commissioned bespoke IT solutions for their doctors to use to avoid having to struggle with managing multiple formats used by doctors in their organisation. You should check your designated body requirements and variations with your RO.
If your RO has not determined which electronic portfolio should be used locally, you should choose a solution that suits you. Remember that your portfolio, with all the GMC required supporting information, needs to be available to your RO potentially at short notice.
In Scotland and Wales there are national appraisal and revalidation platforms used by all doctors (SOAR and MARS respectively).
All medical appraisers should have been trained to start every appraisal with a confidentiality statement; everything discussed at an appraisal is confidential between the appraiser and the appraiser unless issues arise which may indicate a patient safety risk, in which case both appraiser and appraisee are bound by the GMC requirement to take appropriate action to safeguard patient safety.
The record of appraisal will also be accessible to your responsible officer (RO) (and/or Appraisal Lead, depending on how your Designated Body runs the process), because your Responsible Officer has to be able to confirm that an appropriate appraisal has taken place, with all essential elements covered, before making a revalidation recommendation.
Your RO also has a duty to pass on any concerns about your performance or behaviour to your new RO if you change employment.
Furthermore, some information discussed at appraisal may already be available to others by other routes; for example, your job plan will already be available to your local managers.
However, beyond this, appraisal documentation IS confidential. Appraisal documentation cannot be demanded by anyone else (with the possible exception of the court system, in exceptional circumstances). If a request to disclose is made you should seek legal advice
Of course, as with any confidential personal information, you may choose to divulge it if you wish. For example, some release of appraisal information may be requested to allow practising privileged at private hospitals.
However, it should be sufficient to offer evidence that your appraisal did indeed include a discussion of the work done at the private hospital; you are free to withhold or redact any information that is not relevant to that purpose.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has issued guidance for entering information onto E-portfolios (2016). The guidance is for trainees but the same principles apply to any qualified doctor’s CPD, appraisal and revalidation portfolio.