When you wake at 5am thinking about Continuing Professional Development (CPD), something is obviously wrong.
But why was it so easy to find hotels, trains, and friends online whilst education could be so elusive?
Why in 2017 were CPD adverts scattered across so many websites, or buried in my junk email folder? Why was I attending the same events every year, travelling hundreds of miles yet largely unaware of what was on my doorstep? I eventually decided these questions were occupying my mind for two reasons. Firstly, I was reading lots about climate change, oceanic health and the negative impact of fossil-fuel powered travel. I had become self-critical when realising my past actions had not been benign. Secondly, I had recently decided to undertake a specific study day but found the process of finding available education time-consuming and frustrating.
It soon became apparent I was not alone with colleagues reporting difficulties in finding relevant, accessible, and affordable education, resulting in long-distance travel and attendance at inappropriate events just to gain points for revalidation. It was impossible for these healthcare professionals to keep track of all available opportunities when hundreds of CPD providers were marketing through their own individual websites.
I therefore decided to build a software platform to accommodate all UK course, conference, study day and webinar adverts on a single website. Utilising the well-established ‘sign-posting’ and ‘matching’ model from holiday and travel sites, I aimed to reduce the risk of healthcare staff missing educational opportunities, ensure they were aware of what was happening locally/online and decrease miles travelled.
I decided the site had to provide a level playing field for advertising regardless of organisational budget, be free to use for NHS-associated education providers and all healthcare staff and ensure relevant education could be easily found through CPD categorisation and user-applied filters. I pledged never lose sight that I was aiming to reduce the environmental impact of attending external CPD and during 2019, there was an exponential rise in the awareness of climate change and that the NHS was both part of the problem and part of the solution. This reinforced that our site ethos was correct, and we prioritised development of geographic matching and support for online education which through CPDmatch, could reach anyone globally who had access to a computer or mobile device.
In February 2020, we quietly launched www.cpdmatch.co.uk for online testing, sent emails to some education providers and started seeing CPD listed. It took six weeks to ensure the site was functioning correctly and just as we were beginning to start the huge task of marketing, Covid-19 forced a UK lockdown and cancellation of most on-site educational events. Whilst this was a blow, we realised there was no better time to reaffirm goals as many adaptions to Covid-19 were relevant to the sustainability agenda.
Physical events were re-scripted for online delivery and the term ‘webinar’ was being used daily. Large-scale mass ‘conference’ gatherings were unlikely to reappear anytime soon, and local events were likely to predominate if online delivery was not an option.
CPD is only of benefit if it can be found and in a rapidly changing world there is logic in creating this ‘go to place’ for all 1.4 million NHS staff to find education especially when so many courses, conferences and webinars are relevant to multiple specialties. This requires a small change in practice for education providers and healthcare professionals, but the result is a world-first, benefiting staff, employers, professional organisations, the NHS, patients and the environment.