Charlotte McIntyre: How to survive your surgical ARCP

charlotte_mcintyreThe Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) was introduced in 2007, as part of the implementation of Modernising Medical Careers (MMC), and can be an especially daunting time for surgeons in training. Particularly, if it is your first surgical ARCP, trying to ensure that you will meet all of the expected requirements can seem like a Sisyphean task.

The ARCP is an annual review of your progress, which allows you to advance to the next stage of your training, and takes place towards the end of each training year. The first ARCP takes place towards the end of your foundation years and continues all the way up to Certification of Completion of Training (CCT). Following CCT, the revalidation process takes place every five years and has been defined as follows, “The purpose of revalidation is to assure patients and public, employers, and other healthcare professionals, that licensed doctors are up to date and fit to practise.”

Thorough preparation is crucial and knowing what to expect can help ensure there are no surprises on the day. Nevertheless, preparing for the ARCP can be a hugely positive and rewarding experience. It is an opportunity to reflect on what you have achieved within the current training year and it can highlight areas that require focus for the upcoming year. Specifically, it can help to identify stagnant projects and the utility of these projects can be evaluated. Although preparation for the ARCP can seem arduous, it can help to tie up loose ends from the year’s work.

Towards the end of the training year, you will receive an invitation from your Local Education Training board (LETB) to attend your ARCP on a set date. Included in this email there will be: a trainee’s checklist of the evidence that you will need to present to the panel and also, the “Enhanced Form R.” This form needs to be filled out accurately with personal details and details of all employment since your previous ARCP. If this is your first ARCP, you will need to fill out all rotations from the beginning of your first foundation year. The final section of the form is a list of self-declarations relating to the GMC publication, “Good Medical Practice.”

If you have been engaged with your training and regularly updating your Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Programme (ISCP), your preparation will have been taking place throughout the year. More often than not, preparation for the ARCP will be a case of checking all of the relevant evidence has been uploaded onto your ISCP. It might also be time to chase up other trainees, or supervisors, to sign off Work Based Assessments (WBAs) that were sent earlier in the year. The following areas of evidence will be looked at, in detail, by the panel: WBAs, CV, evidence on the ISCP, up-to-date e-Logbook, and teaching attendance.

During the ARCP a panel of consultants will review the evidence and make an assessment on whether you have been making appropriate progress. You should approach the meeting as though it were an interview; dress smartly, turn up half an hour early, bring your portfolio, and be sure to know what is on your CV. During my ARCP the ISCP was projected onto a large screen for the panel to see. We systematically went through each area of the ISCP to check that I had the required evidence. Following this, each member of the panel asked me a few relevant questions: “What are you most proud you of in your portfolio?”, “Have you taken part in any audits this year?”, and “Have you published any of your work this year?” The meeting lasted for around fifteen minutes and felt quite straightforward. The meeting ends when you are told which outcome you have been awarded. It is helpful to know the meaning of each outcome and the implications it may have on your training progression.

A sigh of relief will undoubtedly escape you after leaving the ARCP with your desired outcome. You can now progress to the next year of training—confident that you are progressing at the right pace—and, hopefully, you will also have identified areas for personal development. If you do not achieve your desired outcome, this would be a good time to get in touch with your educational supervisor to discuss the outcome and how to proceed. Both your clinical and educational supervisors will be a good source of support and advice.

Competing interests: None.

Charlotte McIntyre is a second year core surgical trainee in the London deanery.