Maximising the potential of the NHS e-portfolio

The implementation of work place based assessments (WPBA) into curricula, partly as a result of the modernising  medical careers programme, has generated a great deal of commentary and angst amongst trainees and trainers[1,2,3]. Recently as a result of communication via twitter a blog – “The NHS Portfolio revolution starts here” has promoted discussion on the use of the e-portfolio. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) Trainee Doctors Group (mission statement) met with Karen Begg (ePortfolio Projects Manager at NHS Education for Scotland). Formal minutes of that meeting will be available when approved by the ATDG.  In the interim the following represents some key points to consider when developing future policy. They are the views of the author (Damian Roland and NOT the AoMRC).

  • The e-portfolio is a repository of information and assessments which are devised by individual colleges and the foundation school programme. The educational principles surrounding the delivery and use of WPBA should not be confused with the educational and practical delivery of the e-portfolio.
  • E-portfolios are have been delivered by organizations which also create and define assessment standards, including WPBAs. RPscyh and RCS are examples of this. NHS Education for Scotland delivers portfolios for a number of colleges and although a bespoke interface is devised for each, the underlying construct (and server) is the same. Assessors need consistency in their interfaces but may deal with trainees from a number of difference colleges. This inherently produces difficulties. Reviewing the tradeoff between generic and specialty specific e-portfolio is important.
  • Updating and technological enhancing any large scale electronic interface is a resource intensive activity. Ensuring contracts with developers allow for open source software to be developed may reduce these costs
  • Trainee engagement should occur at all phases of e-portfolio design and testing. Developers, Colleges, and Trainee groups must all work together to ensure representation is occurring and appropriately governed.
  • Training in utilising WPBA and the e-portfolio for Trainees and Assessors (of all grades) must be relevant and obtainable. The GMC’s proposed  accreditation of trainers will be valuable in this regard.

There remain significant challenges to ensuring the assessment of postgraduate medical education training is valid and reliable. Continuing engagement by all parties in a constructive manner is vital but is important that credible change is seen to occur as the status quo is ultimately not in patients best interests

[1] Miller A and Archer J. Impact of workplace based assessment on doctors’ education and performance: a systematic review BMJ 2010; 341 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5064

[2] Pathan T and Salter M. Attitude to workplace-based assessment Psychiatric Bulletin September 2008 32:359;

[3] Roland D, Brown C, Long A and Newell S. Paediatric Consultants experience of WPBA. Oral presentation at Association of Medical Education Europe Glasgow 2010 and A Trainee’s view of workplace based assessment [NCAT National Multispecialty Conference 2011]

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