Continuing professional development

All learning activities relevant to your current or proposed clinical and non-clinical scope of work count as CPD for the purposes of revalidation. This can include courses, conferences and other educational sessions held externally and internal to your place of work, as well as personal study in keeping up-to-date with your professional practice through the current literature, streamed live events and web-based resources. Opportunistic and experiential learning derived from your day-to-day clinical practice counts as CPD, as does learning from any teaching, research and management duties you may have.
Obtaining and keeping a certificate confirming participation in CPD activities is not a GMC requirement for revalidation. Appraisers should not be asking to see certificates of attendance; they should be asking what your most important new learning has been over the past year and what difference it has made to your practice. We do however encourage doctors to obtain and keep any official documentation confirming their attendance at external events issued by CPD providers. This documentation could be in the form of a certificate, email, letter or attendance list. Keeping such documents may act as a prompt for reflection when preparing for your next appraisal.

Certificates of attendance may prove attendance at an event, but they are not proof of learning or development. They say nothing about what has been learned, or any changes you have made as a result.

A reflective note, no matter how brief is far more valuable evidence of reflective practice and continuing professional development than a certificate. A lot of valuable learning takes place in ways that do not generate a certificate, such as personal reading and professional conversations with colleagues. We encourage you to think about how and what you have learnt, defining one CPD credit as one hour of learning activity as demonstrated by a reflective note on the lessons learned and any changes made as a result.

You should not waste time scanning certificates of attendance into your portfolio of supporting information, unless keeping formal proof of attendance on courses that are organisational requirements may be useful to you, such as BLS and safeguarding. Appraisers should not be asking to see certificates of attendance; they should be asking what your most important new learning has been over the past year and what difference it has made to your practice.

Many CPD facilitators now provide certificates that provide a structured format or template for you to write appropriate reflective notes about learning and planned changes that will have an impact on your practice. It is reasonable to scan these rather than rewriting the reflective note elsewhere. You can also choose not to complete the certificate at all if the reflective note is captured elsewhere in a learning log or electronic toolkit. The aim is to avoid duplication of effort.

Many doctors benefit educationally from the process and output of any QIA such as audit. As such, you should record the details and reflection on this learning and any changes made to your professional practice as part of your CPD. The same principle applies to learning from significant events, feedback from patients and colleagues and review of any complaints and compliments. The same information can be used in other areas of your revalidation portfolio, in providing evidence of your QIA and review of any significant events, feedback, formal complaints and compliments.

Over a five-year revalidation cycle there should be a balanced approach to your CPD in terms of:

  • Learning from a variety of external, internal and personal study activities – not all of your CPD should be from just reading journal articles for example.
  • Amount of CPD undertaken – does not have to be exactly the same each year but it would be unusual for you to participate excessively in CPD one year but none (or very little) whatsoever the next. The key consideration is actively keeping up-to-date at all times as part of your professional practice.
  • Development areas covering the scope of your professional work – including your clinical and non-clinical roles.

Less than full-time doctors will not be able to demonstrate that they keep up-to-date or are fit to practise, across the whole scope of their work, if they engage with CPD on a part-time basis. Psychiatrists working LTFT will have less experiential or on-the-job learning to draw on and therefore most certainly need the same amount and level of planned CPD (conferences, educational meetings, personal study, etc.) as those working full-time.

If you are planning to take a long-term career break one option is to relinquish your GMC licence (but retain your GMC registration). By doing so, you will not be expected to participate in any revalidation activity including CPD.

However, as a medical professional planning to return to work, you may want to remain up-to-date in your areas of practice through personal study or keeping in touch days (especially those focused on CPD) with an employer.

On re-entering professional practice, your employer may require you to participate in a return to work programme and this should take into account any immediate CPD needs. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has provided a  return to practice guidance (2017).


The GMC does not set any specific revalidation requirements in relation to CPD or particular types of training. The GMC’s requirements for revalidation are about maintaining your licence to practise as a doctor. You must demonstrate that you are up-to-date and fit to practise at as a doctor.

In many areas, responsible officers have asked doctors to include additional training requirements in their portfolio of supporting information for appraisal, for convenience, and to ensure that organisational requirements are understood by every doctor. This does not make them part of the GMC requirements for revalidation.

It is important that doctors recognise the difference between the requirements for revalidation and training requirements for other purposes, and that their appraisers and ROs do not allow the two to become confused.

Documenting your reflection should be proportionate to the CPD activity and recording a vast amount of information is unnecessary. We offer the following tips:

  • Keeping it simple may work best for you. A brief reflective note for each activity, even if it lasts all day or longer, is often sufficient in capturing the most important lessons learned and any changes that you plan to make as a result, or simply saying that learning has been consolidated, nothing new has been gained and it reinforces existing knowledge and skills.  
  • A selective approach can be taken in recording your reflection on only those CPD activities which are valuable and meaningful to you.
  • The brief notes for each recorded activity could act as prompts when providing a more detailed end-of-year summary reflection of your CPD for appraisal.

When you have spent time undertaking a learning activity, it does not always result in learning something new. If it simply reinforces your existing knowledge and skills, and you discover that you are already up-to-date without learning anything new, you can still demonstrate CPD credits by providing a reflective note that explains that there are no changes that you need to make at the current time. This can be very reassuring, and we recommend that you include it in your learning log.

The GMC does not set any specific revalidation requirements in relation to CPD or training. You need to demonstrate that you have done sufficient relevant CPD to keep up-to-date at what you do.

You should not expect your appraiser to review huge amounts of supporting information over and above what is required. You should not spend a disproportionate amount of time and effort on CPD credits that you have already recorded. You should not spend a disproportionate amount of time and effort on documenting your reflection on everything you learn throughout the year. Try to create sensible habits that make your documentation simple and streamlined and use the knowledge and skills of your appraiser to help you.

The focus of CPD should be on its quality and reflection of its impact on your practice, rather than the amount of time spent on the activity. You will need to collect evidence to record your CPD, normally using a structured portfolio. The College’s CPD Submission programme can often be the best way of doing this.

You are required by the GMC to do enough appropriate CPD to remain up-to-date and fit to practise across the whole of your scope of work. There is no regulatory requirement to acquire a particular number of ‘credits’ each year. However, for doctors who wish to be guided by a credit based approach, a target of 50 credits each year and 250 credits over five years is recommended.

If you choose to use the College’s CPD Submissions system, then you will be required to demonstrate 50 or more hours of CPD activity within each annual cycle, of which at least 30 hours should be within the clinical domain. You will also be required to be part of a functioning and active peer group.

There should be a balance of learning methods and experiences, for which you should provide appropriate supporting information and reflection. It is important that you undertake a significant proportion of CPD with colleagues outside your normal place of work (often termed “external” CPD) to avoid professional isolation. Other CPD should take place with colleagues and teams within the workplace on topics directly related to your professional practice (often termed “internal” CPD). You should participate in peer–based learning in your specialty or field of practice. Discussing and disseminating your learning to others may help consolidate that learning and enhance that of your team. You can achieve this through peer reviews and participation in specialty networks. Recognised learning will also come from personal study such as reading of relevant books and journals and from internet-based learning. This should be self-accredited and accompanied by reflective learning.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges recommends that doctors who do not have a breadth of variety of learning types, and a significant proportion of learning with others, use their appraisal to share a reflective note about why not, and what they plan to do to ensure that their practice remains mainstream and not isolated from peer support and review. If you have not included this type of reflection in the pre-appraisal documentation, it is important to discuss it during the appraisal and for the appraiser to document the reflection in the summary.

We recommend that all learning activity should be eligible to be counted as CPD. It is important to reflect on contractual or required training, as it is required for good reason and part of being able to demonstrate that you are ‘fit for purpose’ in your role. The appraisal documentation is a good place to record when any mandatory training was completed and reflect in lessons learned and any changes made as a result.

If you have more than one part of your scope of work with the same training requirements, for example, equality and diversity training, we recommend that you negotiate to ensure that the training that you do will meet the needs of all your roles. This avoids duplication of effort and the unnecessary burden of repeating the same training for different employers.

Read more to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry