This article reports on a study examining continuing professional development (CPD) for consultant doctors. The aim of the study was to identify what promotes or inhibits the effectiveness of CPD and met the following objectives: comparing and contrasting the experiences of CPD across the range of specialties; identifying and describing the range of different models of CPD employed across the different specialties and clinical contexts; considering the educational potential of reflective practice in CPD and its impact on professional practice and exploring how different professionals judge the effectiveness of current CPD practices. Using a mixture of qualitative (interviews, letters, observation) and quantitative (online questionnaire) methods, the views of CPD providers and users were surveyed. Findings suggested that the effectiveness of CPD, as inferred from the comments made by interviewees and questionnaire respondents, relates to the impact on knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, behaviours and changes in practice in the work place. The quality of CPD was seen as inextricably linked to any improvements in the quality of the professional practices required for service delivery. There was widespread consensus as to the value of learning in professional settings. There was recognition that there needs to be a move away from tick boxes to the in-depth identification of learning needs and how these can be met both within and external to the work place, with learning being adequately enabled and assessed in all locations. In conclusion, it can be said that CPD is valued and is seen as effective when it addresses the needs of individual clinicians, the populations they serve and the organisations within which they work. However, the challenge for CPD may lie in the dynamic interaction between educational opportunities and service delivery requirements, as there may be occasions where they vie with each other for resources.