Following the cancellation of the annual conference last year, NES organised its first virtual event for the Scottish Medical Education Conference (SMEC). We ran the Scottish Medical Appraisers Conference as part of SMEC on 27 May 2021. The event was supported by the EICC making use of online conferencing platforms.

It was an ambitious undertaking as it was the first time we had ran an event of this nature at this scale. There were over 1600 delegates for SMEC, with an average of around 250 attending the Appraisers Conference sessions. Back when we ran in-person conferences, our conference workshops usually average 30-40 max per session.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Reflecting on Relationships in Medical Appraisal”. Professor Megan Reitz and Kate Burnett were the guest speakers at the plenary, who spoke on and presented webinars on “Speaking Truth to Power in Appraisals” and “Empowering performance from appraisal” respectively.

Screenshot of conference.

Left to right: Professor Amjad Khan (chair) with Kate Burnett and Professor Megan Reitz (guest speakers) at the conference plenary session

Drs Krystyna Gruzsecka and Hilary Macpherson ran a webinar titled “Appraisal in the new world” with particular focus on remote appraisals, discussion of wellbeing and resources available to support the doctors.

Dan Wynn (Liaison Adviser) and Blake Dobson (Assistant Director – Revalidation, Licensing and Specialist Applications) from the General Medical Council presented a session on the different processes and requirements of medical appraisal and medical revalidation. They were joined by Professor Ian Finlay (Scottish Government) and Professor Amjad Khan (NES) in a Q&A panel where delegates posed live questions to the group.

Screenshot of conference.

Dan Wynn (GMC) presenting on different processes and requirements for appraisal and revalidation respectively

Some attendees did have technical difficulties on the day and were not able to experience some of the more interactive aspects of the webinars (e.g. break outs, polls etc), but those who were able to engage did provide positive feedback.

All webinars and the plenary were recorded and the videos, along with slides used and resource/reference materials, are all available from the Medical Appraisal Scotland website:

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Next conference… online or in person?

Looking back, whilst there’s no doubt some users had struggled with the technology on the day, there were many more users who found the experience engaging and worthwhile. Just the same as we do with our training courses, we will take into consideration everyone’s feedback in the planning of next year’s conference.

As suggested in early feedback, we are exploring the potentials of a hybrid / blended event where – government rules allowing – some participants could attend in person, joined remotely by others online. This use of the online conferencing technology offers us an opportunity to ensure no one is disadvantaged by geography or the expense of travel.

Confirmation of plans for next year’s conference will be announced later in the year.