Trainees dissatisfied with “tick box” ARCP, researchers find

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  13 Feb 2017

Trainees are dissatisfied with the “tick box” nature of the annual review of competence progression (ARCP), researchers have found.

Researchers from UCL Medical School surveyed 96 trainees and 41 trainers about their perceptions of the validity of the ARCP. They found that there was “general dissatisfaction with ARCPs, especially among UK graduates,” and although trainers tended to view the process more positively they did voice negative views.[1]

The paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, said, “ARCPs were described as a ‘tickbox exercise’ in 27 of the 65 interviews and focus groups; this was generally a criticism of populating the e-portfolio. ARCPs were felt to test clerical ability rather than clinical ability which some believed were inversely correlated.”

One of the authors of the paper, Rowena Viney, said that trainees found ARCPs most useful when they had a good relationship with their trainer, and when their trainer showed interest in their progress and completed paperwork on time.

She said, “There is some confusion about the summative versus formative nature of the assessment, which needs to be considered, especially as trainees valued the feedback that they received from the more formative elements of the assessment and believed that the emphasis on minimal competency could discourage excellence.”

Wendy Reid, director of education and quality at Health Education England, recently told The BMJ that her organisation would be reviewing the ARCP process this year.[2]

“There’s a sense that doctors in training in the UK are heavily regulated, and quite rightly,” Reid said. “However, the ARCP process is delivered in multiple ways across England. Even in the same specialty there are variations across different parts of the country.”

Viney said that some of the trainees that took part in the research said that they had experienced differences in how the ARCP process was conducted in different specialties and in different deaneries and Local Education and Training Boards.

“In light of this it would be useful for more research to be conducted on how much variability there is, why, and what effect it has, as this would be particularly useful to feed into the current review of the ARCP,” Viney said.


  1. Viney R, Rich A, Needleman S, Griffin A, Woolf K. The validity of the Annual Review of Competence Progression: a qualitative interview study of the perceptions of junior doctors and their trainers. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine . 2017 . [Link] .
  2. Rimmer A. Making junior doctors’ lives easier. 2017. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

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