Toni Hazell

An NHS GP and freelance writer/editor, with a particular interest in eLearning

GPs are under pressure to manage our time efficiently and to identify our own learning needs. Year on year, my appraisals contain fewer courses and more online learning.

So why switch to e-learning? The benefits are obvious – it is cheap (or free), convenient and can be done in your own time. Many GPs who are working parents do their CPD after the children are in bed.

You can tailor it to suit your learning needs and if you want to know more, Google and Pubmed are at your fingertips.

However, there are a few minor disadvantages to bear in mind – for example, you will need to assess the quality of the learning materials if they are not provided by a reputable organisation.

You usually cannot question the teacher and modules aimed at all GPs may not be detailed enough if a topic is your area of particular interest.

Choosing individual topics can mean you do not find out what it is that you don’t know you don’t know. So you do need to plan ahead.

Why choose e-learning?

1.You want an update. That last patient has reminded you that you never did get to grips with eczema at medical school. Or you want to learn about something new, something that you might not know to look for. In short, you are looking for knowledge that most GPs should have, either to go through in depth, or quickly while the patient is in the room.

Examples include:

  • RCGP site – do a module on one subject, or an Essential Knowledge Update which covers lots of areas. I write and edit modules for this site.
  •  Free to NHS staff, this has some very detailed modules. Some are compulsory, for example to update an IUD qualification. Not the most intuitive of sites to navigate.
  • Pulse Learning This site charges a one-off fee and also always has some free modules available. I write case-based reviews for Pulse on a variety of subjects.

2. You have started developing a special interest. Suddenly your colleagues are coming to you with their tricky dermatology queries and you need to brush up. You are looking for knowledge that the average GP might not have. Here are some ideas for places to go.

  • email the Clinical Effectiveness Unit with your family planning conundrum and it will review the evidence for you.
  • Primary Care Dermatology Society and Dermnetz Two resources for dermatology – the UK one has overviews of dermatological conditions with pictures and videos. A similar site based in New Zealand has skin-related CPD modules.

3. You want to help a patient. You know they will be searching online and you would rather they seek out reputable information than the ‘help’ of Dr Loadsadollars in Texas, who will relieve them of their hard-earned cash in exchange for some goat serum, guaranteed to cure all ills. Signpost the patient to one of these resources.

  • Downloadable information leaflets, mobile apps and support groups, as well as more detailed articles aimed at healthcare professionals.
  • and Self-guided CBT, useful as an adjunct to local mental health services.
  • Action plans, peak flow diaries, alert cards. Downloadable or obtainable by post.

4. You do not need clinical information. You have been elected to the CCG, become a trainer or taken on the role of HR partner. Your appraisal is due and you need some CPD to reflect your new role. The links below will point you in the right direction

  • MPS CPD in law and ethics, free to defence organisation members.
  • modules from the London Deanery on every aspect of education.
  • Advice about HR and employment matters, plus a free helpline.