Domain 1:

Knowledge, Skills & Performance

Developing a PDP is a dynamic process - Reflect and consider the year ahead.

Guidance on writing a Personal Development Plan

Many doctors construct their Personal Development Plan (PDP) during the preparation for their annual appraisal. However, it is a dynamic process, and learning needs can be added to and removed from a plan at any time of year.

You should try to maintain a balance of different types of learning need. For example:

  • an area of potential weakness in which you have some evidence that you are becoming out of date
  • something that you are aware of as a new topic
  • an area of personal interest and expertise that you would like to take forward

For each of your learning needs it is helpful to consider eight questions:

  1. What would you like to change, develop or do differently in the way you practice? (This is your learning need)
  2. How did you identify your need to change or develop?
  3. How important is this need?
  4. What specifically do you need to learn in order to be able to bring about the change you wish to make? (This is your learning objective)
  5. How can you learn this?
  6. How long will it take to learn this?
  7. How will you know when you have met this need?
  8. How will you be able to demonstrate that you have met your need?

For more information about PDP, please visit the NES GP CPD website.

Identifying Learning Needs

As preparation for appraisal you will have thought about the job you do, and perhaps how you would like your practice to develop. You will have reflected upon what you learned last year, and how this may be taken forward. You will have reviewed the essential evidence categories in detail, and may have identified areas for change or development as a result. Many learning needs will be identified through this process but others will be identified by personal self-reflection on your day to day work.

Remember, if you feel uncomfortable about how you manage, have managed, or would manage a situation, there is usually a learning need to be explored!

The following table lists many of the possible methods for identifying learning needs.

Self-Reflection I feel uncertain that my knowledge of... is as up to date as it should be
Log (Reflective) Diary I was not quite sure that I managed that optimally
A Significant Event A prescribing error
Self-Assessment Tests PEP available from the RCGP
Learning Matrix (This asks you to consider a list of all the areas of practice in your field, and decide which of these you would most benefit from refreshing. You then need to decide what you need to learn and how to do it) I feel least comfortable with dermatology...
Audit An audit has highlighted that I need to review how I manage...
Referral Information A review of referrals identified the possibility that I should...
Prescribing Information A review of prescribing data identified the possibility that I should...
Study of Consultation Skills I need to develop my skills in...
Practice Need My practice wishes to offer a new service...
Feedback from Colleagues Feedback from a referral / missed diagnosis
New Information SIGN guidelines have highlighted that we need to change...
Problem Cases I have a patient with... which I know little about
PUNs / DENs (Patients' Unmet Needs and Doctors' Educational Needs) My patient attended to ask about... I had to say I would find out.


Having identified the area in which you need to develop, think very carefully about what you want to be able to do differently, and write down very clearly the things that you need to learn about. For instance, if a primary care doctor feels uncertain about how to manage an anaemic patient he /she could write "I need to know the first line management of a patient who presents to me with anaemia", which clarifies what he/she needs to know much more effectively than "I need to know about the investigation of anaemia".


It is important to prioritise your learning needs, and to put your most important learning needs into your development plan. This will help your plan to be constructive, relevant and achievable.

Learning Objectives

Having decided what you want to do differently, and that you want to achieve this change within the next year, you need to be specific about exactly what you need to learn in order to be able to make your change. These specific items are your learning objectives; they should be demonstrable and measurable. Our doctor who wants to learn about anaemia might write "I want to develop a management plan for patients presenting with anaemia".

Learning Methods

This is up to you! Doctors' learning styles vary - some prefer to attend courses, and others prefer personal learning. Think carefully about what you want to achieve and the best way to do it. Ensure that the method you choose will meet your need. In general, participating in activity sessions is the best way to learn practical skills, whereas attitudes are probably best developed in an environment where discussion and debate are facilitated, and knowledge may be gained very effectively by personal study. Often more than one method will be required to ensure an objective is achieved.


Be realistic! Some big learning objectives may take more than 12 months to achieve. If this is likely to be the case, plan for this.

Demonstration of Learning

When writing your plan consider how you will know that you have achieved your objective and can demonstrate a subsequent change in behaviour, if appropriate. This may include  a certificate of achievement, a protocol, or could involve an audit, or survey of performance. (It may be that the audit is included in your development plan for next year).

Frequently Asked Questions on PDP

How many learning needs should I include in my development plan?

This depends on how long you expect fulfilling the needs to take! The RCGP recommends that you should undertake a minimum of 50 credits per year.  GPs on average tend to undertake 3 or 4 significant learning projects per annum.

If I don't meet some of my objectives, will it matter?

If you have identified an area as a priority for learning, you should try to achieve it. In reality, priorities change. If your situation changes and another need becomes more pressing, of course you should address that.

Can I make a plan which lasts more than 12 months?

Some large pieces of work may take more than 12 months - for instance a research project may be scheduled to run over 2, 3 or even more years.  At your appraisal you should still complete the Appraisal Form's PDP section and include some information about how the big project is going.  Your plan for the second year will include an item on continuing your project.

This page was last updated on: 15/05/2015