Objectives: To evaluate a national continuing professional development (CPD) scheme through the views and experiences of its participants.
Methods: A qualitative focus group methodology was used. Forty-nine career grade paediatricians were allocated to nine focus groups according to their work settings, ages and posts. All groups discussed the following: (a) ease or difficulty of achieving CPD requirements; (b) whether a personal professional development plan (PDP) enabled the planning process for CPD; (c) whether CPD participation facilitated changes in practice, and (d) their views on the CPD system in operation at the time of the study.
Results: Taking part in CPD had a positive effect on participants' clinical practice and broadened their professional and academic base. The main difficulties in achieving CPD were variable financial support (especially for non-consultant staff) and pressure due to extra work accumulating during study leave. The quality of internal CPD meetings was inconsistent. A professional development plan was useful for planning CPD needs, but there was a conflict between the educational and training needs of the individual and the employing NHS Trusts. The scheme's guidelines were clear but there were reservations about its layout and the system of recording points.
Conclusion: This study enabled discovery of the views of paediatricians participating in a national CPD scheme operated by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Consequently, changes were made to the scheme's presentation (but not content) and process of recording points. Barriers to achieving CPD requirements were identified and are being monitored. Efforts to involve non-consultant career grade paediatricians have been increased.