What is the point of ARCP?

I’m a paediatrics trainee.  By now, I have 7 years worth of ARCPs done. Boxes ticked. Progress made & recorded.

And I still have no idea what the point of the process is other than to make sure that I’ve jumped through enough hoops that I’ll get to be a consultant someday.

It is not an educational experience; I accept that (according to the Gold Guide), it’s not supposed to be.  It’s supposed to be a summing up of the assessment & appraisal that has taken place over the year.

It’s the STOP point for “failing’ trainees.

Where’s the STOP point for a failing training system? or even (radical thought alert) just a training programme that could be made a little bit better?


How it can work

I get to see another side of supervision and training through my PhD.

Here’s how it works for my academic work:

I meet with my supervisors every two weeks.  If that doesn’t happen (and quite often, it doesn’t), then we look at how the meetings work.

I get regular e-mail contact and feedback on how I’m doing.

We look at my training needs and what I need to get out of the 4 years.  We talk about other students and what training they’ve accessed. I get encouraged to submit for conferences and presentations.

The expectation is that there is regular feedback between supervisor and student, and that we work together to make sure this is a productive time for me and the research group.


This isn’t how it works in medical training.

I was really excited about my first ARCP as a proper paediatrics trainee.  In fact, there were two: an academic one, and a clinical one.  I was present at both; I did a mini-summary of what I’d achieved, and what my plans were for the coming year; I got some advice & suggestions about how to manage some issues.

Last year was the first time I hadn’t been physically present at my ARCP. (I know: I’m lucky that I normally get to go. But I am academic and LTFT, so technically I should have one!)  And it was a worry, because I had concerns about my training. I had definite issues that I needed to discuss; training needs that I wanted to raise.  But we weren’t invited to attend.  In the end, I wrote one of my lovely “unofficial” supervisors who was on the panel a long e-mail with what was annoying me.  None of that is reflected in the panel documentation from the day.

This year, we were allocated a 10 minute slot in the middle of the working day “to receive feedback” at an office complex in the middle of nowhere.  I decided I was going to get more benefit from my training if I stayed and did my shift on admissions.  (Not that there would have been any cover anyway…)

ARCP for Trainees

ARCP is something that happens to trainees, not with them.  We’re told that we’re adult learners with a responsibility to develop our own training but how exactly are we supposed to have a two-way process with a panel that doesn’t meet with us, or invite our feedback on the training that is available?

The Gold Guide would place educational supervisors in this role as a link between trainee and assessor, but it’s not exactly supportive of feedback:

“Trainees should feel able to discuss the merits or otherwise of their training experience. The detailed content of the discussion which takes place within appraisal sessions should normally be confidential…”

We can give feedback, but should expect it to be confidential?  The whole process is about trainees who fail to meet the standards set; trainees who fail to engage; trainees who don’t step up and act like adult learners…

Where’s the two-way dialogue? Where’s the process for improving the training that we get?

My educational & clinical supervisors can support me with a single placement, but what about the training experience as a whole?

If I want to feedback on my overall training experience, then what exactly am I supposed to do?*

There’s no official record of my concerns about my training; of my assessment of what I need to progress; of what experiences that I’m missing.  There’s no recognised place or mechanism for my educational supervisor to give the School & TPDs that information, or any record of what they’re doing to address those needs.  Maybe that didn’t need to happen before, in the good old days of firms and a single consultant? But it needs to happen now.

Maybe all these discussion do take place; maybe the records are being kept & reviewed.  But if that is happening, then it’s taking place without me.

It’s the great irony of modern healthcare.  Patients & clinicians are moving towards a model of shared decision-making and “no decision about me, without me”.  Their clinicians in training don’t seem to be getting the same respect.



*And yes, I do mean feedback.  I don’t need to complain; I don’t need to go to the GMC about it.  I just need to point out that some things work, and others don’t.

3 thoughts on “What is the point of ARCP?

  1. Very intersting, Carmen. As ever. Many points here echo my thoughts and feelings. A good performance evaluation tool must be valid (right things being assessed? Fairness? Predictor of future performance), reliable (pass and fail the right candidate, agreement between assessors) and specific (relevant to skills or areas of learning). I wonder how our ARCP compares with its counterparts across other countries such as Australia, USA and Canada.

  2. Excellent post, courageously and considerately written.

    I wonder whether the reason trainees don’t give feedback on ARCPs is because it feels like whistleblowing.

    It’s discouraged, you are identifiable, and doing so can make everyone think of you as a whiner/disengaged trainee/poor trainee.

    The GMC survey has similar issues (IMHO).

    I wonder if a return to an open apprenticeship model would help? Reintroduce a two-way dialogue, and encourage trainees and trainers to emotionally invest in one another?

    Food for thought. Thanks for a great post once again.

  3. Thanks both. I think I’m really frustrated that the process takes a huge amount of effort from everybody: supervisors, trainees, LETB. It seems a shame not to use that better to improve things.

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