Since May 2011, practitioners are obliged to commit to a formal process of professional development, promoting and improving professional competence. As the year anniversary of this statutory obligation tolls, practitioners now face further changes.  On-site performance assessments are now operational, where concerns arise that a practitioner is not maintaining the required level of professional competence.

Given that on-site assessments were so recently introduced, it is premature to speculate overly on their impact.  However, for practitioners looking to understand how the process works, the following section outlines the various steps involved.

Performance Assessment – Getting There

A practitioner may:  

  1. be referred for performance assessment following consideration of a complaint by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee;
  2. undertake to be referred for performance assessment following a Fitness to Practise Committee Inquiry; or
  3. be referred for performance assessment by direction of the Medical Council, following a Fitness to Practise Committee Inquiry.

The Process

If a practitioner has been referred for performance assessment, a carefully selected and trained assessment team, usually comprising two doctors and one patient representative, will investigate their practice.  Before the visit, the team may have gathered background information about the practitioner; appointed an occupational health assessor to conduct a health assessment of the practitioner/or questioned their staff and patients on their views on a wide range of issues concerning their professional performance.

The team may then visit the practitioner’s workplace to observe their interactions with patients, assess their knowledge and skill and review their performance and practice.  This may involve an initial interview with the practitioner; a review of their systems and processes; a review of a sample of clinical records; direct observation of the practitioner practising their day to day clinical work and case based assessment.

The team will then prepare a report, for consideration by the Medical Council. The practitioner will have an opportunity to provide their observations on the report, together with proposals for an action plan, to improve their knowledge, skill and /or practice management.  The Council will then decide what action (if any) is necessary to ensure the practitioner’s ongoing professional competence and will monitor the practitioner until they are satisfied that they are maintaining professional competence.

The operation of performance assessments in practice remains to be seen, however, it certainly provides an additional option for the Medical Council, in handling concerns about practitioners, alongside its existing disciplinary proceedings.