Published: January 2008
Time spent out of programme can be hugely beneficial - on a number of levels - as well as enjoyable and rewarding. There are, however, formalities to be observed and it is important to get these done correctly. This page aims to provide guidance about how to do this.
Terminology: For the purpose of this guidance, the abbreviation OOPA will used as a general collective term for all types of out of programme activities. It is not a term, however, that has been officially defined by either the General Medical Council (GMC) or in the Gold Guide. The definitions of the three types of formal OOPA are given below.
- Out of Programme Experience (OOPE): any out of programme activity that is not to be counted towards the trainee's CCT. Inevitably, this term will continue to be used colloquically to cover all OOPA, as it was previously.
- Out of Programme Research (OOPR): a period of research from which the trainee is to receive credit towards his/her CCT. If a trainee is to undertake research but not to receive credit, this would be labelled as OOPE.
- Out of Programme Training (OOPT): a period of training undertaken outside the trainee's own training scheme that is to be counted (whether partially or in its entirety) towards his/her CCT. OOPT includes secondment to another training scheme, a Fellowship post (whether in the UK or abroad), "acting up" as a consultant, and any other activity that is undertaken outside of the trainee's training scheme that is to be counted towards his/her CCT.
A trainee who is considering undertaking any sort of OOPA needs to start developing his/her plans well in advance and to discuss these with the head of their training scheme, their dean and the College at an early stage. All OOPA requires permission from these three parties and this must be obtained prospectively. Deaneries usually have request forms for completion; the College will expect to receive a copy of the fully completed and signed deanery approval form from the trainee as soon as this is available. The College does not have an OOPA form. Trainees should write to the College's Training Manager with full details, including exact dates, of their plans - see Application to the College below for further guidance.
The GMC has established procedures for the approval of OOPR and OOPT, which need to be observed in order for the trainee to receive credit from the activity towards their CCT. The only exception to this is when the OOPT is for the purpose of a secondment to an established training post within another UK training scheme; the GMC's approval is not required but the need for deanery and College approval remains.
An application to the GMC for OOPR or OOPT approval must be made by the deanery. The GMC will not accept applications from trainees, their training supervisors or the College. Trainees who are considering OOPA from which they wish to obtain credit, therefore, need to liaise with their deanery and the College at an early stage in order that formal approval from the GMC may be obtained before the OOPR or OOPT begins. It is recommended that the initial application to the College is made at least three months in advance of the OOPA starting - and preferably six months should be allowed. If prospective GMC approval is not obtained, the trainee cannot receive credit towards his/her CCT.
Application to the College: The trainee must submit the information listed below about the OOPR/T to the Training Manager at the Royal College of Radiologists. The College does not need to receive a copy of the deanery OOPR/T approval form at this stage (although it would be happy to do so if it was available).
- For a fellowship post: a formal description of the post, including its title and location, and the exact dates when it is to be undertaken.
- For research: a formal description of the project, including its aims, purpose and method, the exact dates when it is to be undertaken, its location and a view from the head of the training scheme about how much credit is considered appropriate on the basis of the extent to which the research will facilitate coverage of the specialist training curriculum. The latter should be supported by a weekly timetable giving details of any clinical commitments.
- For "acting up" as a consultant: the exact dates, location and name of the direct consultant supervisor
Once the College has made its decision, it will reply to the trainee, copying its letter to the head of the training scheme, regional adviser and dean. It will also write a separate letter to the dean to be used in support of his/her application to the GMC (and copy this to the trainee, the head of their training scheme and regional adviser. NB: The GMC's guidance has indicated that this support can be provided by "local College representatives as long as they act in accord with the College's national policy". The College's view is that all approval should be obtained directly from the College, as previously, so as to ensure a nationwide standard.
If any modification is required to the trainee's expected CCT date as a result of the OOPR/T, this will be indicated in the College's letter, which will also inform the trainee of the documentation that he/she needs to submit, eg deanery OOPR/T approval form before commencement, training supervisor's letter at completion of OOPR/T.
GMC Application Process: There is no specific GMC form to be completed. The deanery's application must comprise the following:
- A formal covering letter from the deanery to the GMC's Head of Approvals and Visits in its Quality Assurance Directorate. This must
- ask the GMC to grant prospective approval for the OOPR/T for an individual named trainee, and
- confirm that the deanery is supportive of the OOPR/T contributing towards the trainee's specialist/specialty training.
- Confirmation that the College has given explicit written support for the OOPR/T to count towards the individual trainee's CCT and indicating the amount of credit that would be appropriate.
- A statement detailing the purpose and structure of the post and confirming that the post is subject to quality management in line with the GMC's requirements.
Approval Process: Once the GMC has made its decision it will advise this (by email) to the deanery, and copy its response to "relevant stakeholders", which include the College. It is understood that deaneries will continue to require trainees to use deanery OOPR/T approval forms; the College will expect to receive a copy of the fully completed and signed form from the trainee.
Confirmation of Satisfactory Completion/Progress: At the conclusion of the OOPR/T, the College will expect to receive a letter from the OOPR/T training supervisor. This will need to confirm the post's exact start and finish dates, its grade, specialty and location, to comment upon the trainee's progress and performance, and to indicate if the training aim for the post was achieved. If the OOPT is a non-UK fellowship, the letter will need to confirm that the post is approved for specialist training purposes by the relevant national body (or is attached to a residency programme that has such approval). The trainee will remain subject to the assessment processes of their home deanery during their OOPR/T and should ensure that they provide all documentation requested in support of these, such as a progress report from the OOPR/T supervisor.
OOPA without CCT Credit (OOPE): A trainee who wishes to undertake OOPE (ie an OOPA that does not contribute towards their CCT) must obtain specific permission for this from their deanery and the head of their training scheme. However, approval from the GMC is not required. OOPE of this nature must be notified to the Training Manager at the College through submission of a copy of the fully completed and signed deanery OOPE approval form, which must specifically state that no credit is to be received. The College will then revise the trainee's expected CCT date and notify this to the trainee, the head of his/her training scheme, his/her regional adviser and deanery. It is not possible to subsequently seek CCT credit for an OOPA that a trainee and his/her training supervisors and deanery have agreed should be undertaken as OOPE.
Extension of OOPR/T: When the duration of OOPR/T is extended, it may be appropriate to seek an additional credit award. This should be done in the same manner as if a new period of OOPR/T were to be undertaken. The GMC's approval needs to be obtained before the original duration of the OOPR/T concludes.
Change of OOPA Plans and/or Content: Trainees must inform the College at the earliest opportunity if there is any change to their OOPA plans and/or content. This includes advising if the OOPE/R/T is not to go ahead, if its start date, duration or location change, or if the content differs from that upon which the original credit award was made. In the latter case, the College can consider revision to the credit award, either upwards or downwards, and advise the GMC accordingly. Further modification, as appropriate, to the trainee's expected CCT date can also be effected and advised to the trainee, the head of his/her training scheme, regional adviser and deanery.
The Royal College of Radiologists believes that OOPA can offer valuable opportunities for trainees to complement and supplement those available within their home training scheme and will support trainees undertaking OOPA wherever possible and appropriate. However, deaneries and training schemes are sometimes unable to support requests for OOPA; in any such circumstances, the College will not be able to intervene on the trainee's behalf.
It is imperative that trainees plan their OOPA well in advance and take personal responsibility for ensuring that the deanery and College are fully informed of their plans (including notification when these do not go ahead). Trainees must also ensure that full and timely information is provided to the College and the deanery to ensure that the latter is in a position to apply to the GMC for prospective permission when this is required.
Should trainees or their trainers have any queries about the arrangements for approval of OOPA, the College's Training Office would be pleased to assist: 020 7299 1164.