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What does an assessment involve?

The overall assessment process takes about six months. The assessment itself will last between one and five days.

The content of the assessment will be chosen by the assessment team and will depend on the doctor’s specialty, grade, the nature of their work and whether they are currently working. Some of the components, known as instruments, are designed to assess performance in the workplace. Others test knowledge and skills through formal examinations.

The instruments the team may choose from are listed below.

  • A first interview is an opportunity for the doctor to meet the assessment team, and for the team to learn more about the doctor’s experience and recent practice.     
  • A visit to the doctor’s place of work allows the team to understand the doctor’s working conditions and puts their practice into context.
  • A review of medical records is conducted to assess the doctor’s record keeping and other aspects of their performance. Under the Medical Act 1983, we have the authority to access patients’ medical records in order to carry out a performance assessment - patient consent is not required. Records will either be inspected on site or copies will be requested. 
  • Third party interviews are interviews with the doctor’s colleagues. They will be asked for their opinion of how the doctor performs on a day-to-day basis. A transcript is taken and the doctor has an opportunity to comment on this. If you have been asked to give an interview, please make sure you read the guidance for interviewees.
  • An observation of the doctor at work in their usual workplace.
  • A case based discussion to assess the doctor’s reasoning and decision making. The assessors choose cases or scenarios to discuss from other parts of the assessment.
  • A knowledge test that will be a written, multiple choice paper with questions relevant to the doctor's work. 
  • An Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is conducted at a clinical assessment centre, and contains a series of scenarios that the doctor might encounter in the course of a working day. For each scenario, the doctor is given a task to perform that may involve, for example, using medical equipment or interacting with role players acting as patients. 
  • A simulated GP surgery is a series of consultations with role players. The assessors observe and assess the doctor’s clinical and communication skills.
  • A diagnostic reporting session is a series of images or slides on which the doctor will be asked to make a diagnosis and, in some cases, discuss management options.
  • A second/third interview with the doctor is an opportunity for the assessment team to ask any final questions and add the doctor’s comments to the information gathered throughout the assessment.     

Occasionally assessment tools offered by external providers, such as a royal college or medical school, are also used.