102 people signed the petition since June 16, 2014

Response to charging RCGP members for access to ePortfolio

We were dismayed to see read the announcement that access to the Revalidation ePortfolio would no longer be free for members of College. Currently, this is a uniquely tangible benefit which has helped to encourage many to maintain their membership.

It may make a lot of sense for RCGP and Clarity Informatics to join forces in this way. However, very sadly, the deal you outline (free for the first 4 years then 25% discount) will not be sufficient to deter many from cancelling their College membership.

Quite apart from the personal financial cost, this will increase the administrative burden on every member by requiring them to enter into a separate contract with Clarity.

RCGP should be able to negotiate with Clarity to provide access for each member for considerably less than £50. Their administrative costs would be lower if nothing else.

The ability to access both the Revalidation and Trainee ePortfolios using RCGP website login details is very convenient. We would urge College to restore universal access to members to such products and maintain this advantage.

We do hope RCGP will revisit this regrettable decision as a matter of urgency. College should be able negotiate with Clarity to get a sufficiently good deal to allow the use of a proportion of the membership fee to cover the cost so that it continues to remain free to members.

Response from RCGP Chair of Council Dr Maureen Baker 11 July 2014:

Further to Helen Stokes-Lampard’s email of 30 June , we promised to get back to you once the College’s Leadership Team had discussed your concerns over the decision to partner with Clarity Informatics in developing a new Revalidation ePortfolio (ReP).

The meeting took place this morning, please be assured that all the issues outlined by you and other colleagues in your letter and petition were given considerable time and attention.

We know you are particularly concerned that members were not consulted over this. Unfortunately, we are unable to consult our members on every issue but endeavour to act in the best interests of the RCGP membership at all times.

In line with College governance procedures, the Trustee Board was tasked with the responsibility of determining the future of the ReP. The decision – ratified by Council – followed due diligence and was taken in good faith to pre-empt significant challenges for our members, had we continued with the current resource.

The Trustee Board has been running now for over two years following a successful pilot. It was set up directly in response to concerns from Council that time was being taken up with the ‘business’ aspects of the College when it is Council’s role to set the strategic direction and policy priorities of the College.

This arrangement is working well and it enables Council to concentrate on the core functions of the College – supporting our members and improving patient care.

When we consult with our membership, it will always be on important issues affecting general practice and patients rather than on the governance, business and financial aspects of running the College. In the past year, we have run two UK-wide membership consultations - one to set our next round of policy priorities and the other on our stance regarding assisted dying.

As we have said previously, the decision to go into partnership with an external company was a very difficult one which took the Trustee Board over 18 months of deliberations. It is certainly not something that we rushed into or entered into lightly.

Despite our best efforts over the past three years, trying to constantly maintain and develop the revalidation tool in-house was becoming increasingly problematic. It was becoming more costly to run, even without the necessary improvements, and it would have become unsustainable in a very short time.

The new system will drastically reduce costs whilst enabling us to provide members with a long-term and continuously improving system.

Whilst we fully appreciate your reaction to our decision - and your disappointment that a cost will eventually be attached to a previously free membership benefit - we spent a great deal of time and effort negotiating the best deal possible and strongly believe that this will be financially advantageous for the majority of our members in the long-term.

To address the specific points in your letter about the process of transferring to Clarity, we have gone to great lengths to minimise any administrative burden on members as a result of the switchover.

Current users of the ReP will have their information transferred automatically and securely to the new system. Links and log-on facilities will be provided within the existing RCGP website and all data from ReP will be securely mapped to the relevant fields.

Work already uploaded to the RCGP Revalidation ePortfolio will be carried over to the enhanced new unified system and no work or data will be lost. Neither Clarity nor the RCGP can use the data for other purposes without permission.

Clarity has a proven track record in providing IT solutions for appraisal, and the new enhanced portfolio will incorporate the best features of our respective systems, as well as being interoperable with the RCGP’s Online Learning Environment and trainee ePortfolio.

We hope that this has addressed all your concerns and helped to reassure you.

We also hope that you will find the new system reliable, easy to use, and supportive to your needs in preparing for revalidation.

We very much value the time and effort you have all invested in providing your feedback and will use this to inform the way we handle future decisions.

As College Chair, I operate an ‘open door’ policy and hope that you will take the opportunity to use this as a way of raising any issues or concerns you may have in future.

Thank you and best wishes.

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