Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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On-line portfolio maintenance and accredited training records

Colin G Adair, Fran Lloyd

The following is extracted from International Pharmaceutical Federation – FIP (2014). Continuing Professional Development/Continuing Education in Pharmacy: Global Report. 

Northern Ireland

Mandatory CPD; Online portfolio has an option to allow the assessor to view the portfolio; a four-stage CPD cycle (Reflection, Planning, Action and Evaluation), each cycle has to address 9 elements; Northern Ireland Centre for Pharmacy Learning and Development developed the CPD system, which was adopted and implemented by the pharmacy regulator (Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland).   

Full project description: 

Full project description:  To download the FIP Global Report click here 


  • When developing a system in which CPD portfolios can be assessed it is important to build the system with assessment as the guiding principle.
  • The training of assessors is key to achieving consistency in assessment.
  • Even with appropriate training of assessors there will be variation in scoring and therefore it is important to have quality assurance (QA) checks as part of the system. A rapid turnover in assessors tends to reduce consistency.
  • On-line portfolio maintenance, submission administration, assessment and feedback are much easier to implement and less expensive to operate than a paper-based system.
  • Pharmacist understanding of the distinction between CE and CPD is key to enabling them to successfully build a portfolio.
  • In Northern Ireland, specific additional pharmaceutical services attract a payment. Pharmacists have the opportunity to provide additional services covered by the health insurance.

Current drivers

In the UK, a number of high-profile cases of criminality, incompetence and/or cover-up by health professionals prompted the government at that time to require health professionals to become more accountable for their actions and to demonstrate their competence on an on-going basis. CPD for pharmacists has been implemented since 2007 and it is considered advanced in this area.

In 2004, the Department of Health (DoH) funded Northern Ireland Centre for Pharmacy Learning and Development (NICPLD) to develop a system of CPD for pharmacists in Northern Ireland.  Key elements were to:

  • Develop a definitive CPD on-line portfolio;
  • Define objective standards against which portfolios could be assessed;
  • Establish an appropriate support system for pharmacists;
  • Enable monitoring/assessment of portfolios, with remediation schemes as appropriate;
  • Provide financial estimates of running costs for the system.

The project ran over two years, at the end of which (2006) the system was fine-tuned and responsibility for rolling-out mandatory CPD to the profession passed to the pharmacy regulator.

Challenges faced in the implementation

Keys to success were administrative websites for the regulator and an assessment website for assessors to remotely access pharmacists’ portfolios. To comply with data protection, the pharmacist online portfolio had an option to allow the assessor to view their portfolio. A guiding principle (and the most challenging aspect) was that the portfolio should be assessable.

  • It was used a four-stage CPD cycle (Reflection, Planning, Action and Evaluation), in which each individual cycle had to address 9 elements.
  • The percentage of acceptable CPD cycles in a CPD portfolio determined the overall portfolio acceptability.
  • The levels of inter-assessor agreement (75-83%) were higher than those reported elsewhere.
  • Lack of agreement was highest at the acceptable/unacceptable interface.
  • Agreement tended to decline with assessor turnover, suggesting there is a learning curve for new assessors.

This case study relates to:

Case study addresses: