GP recruitment suffers as trainees less exposed to general practice

Medical students are spending the equivalent of two weeks less in general practice during training than they were 10 years ago, research has revealed, in results branded 'outrageous' by the RCGP.

Dr Baker: 'Medical schools have a responsibility to promote the opportunities of a career as a GP.'
Dr Baker: 'Medical schools have a responsibility to promote the opportunities of a career as a GP.'

The results suggest undergraduate curricular priorities and funding should be 're-examined', as attempts to improve GP recruitment rates will continue to suffer as the profession is underexposed and sidelined during training, the researchers warned.

The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), reveals that the number of sessions per student taught in general practice has fallen by the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of training over the last decade.

An average of 122 sessions per student were taught in general practice in 2002, compared with just 102 in 2011/12, a decline of 20 sessions per student.

The proportion of the medical curriculum taught in general practice has remained static at around 13% since 2008, despite repeated targets to boost numbers of students opting for general practice.

GPOnline previously revealed that fewer than 25% of 2014 foundation trainees intended on pursuing a career in general practice. A government mandate dictates that Health Education England (HEE) must bump this up to 50% by 2016.

Funding disproportionately low

The funding allocated to general practice was disproportionately lower than time spent, with an average of 7% of the medical schools’ clinical teaching budgets spent to support training in general practice.

The researchers, led by Dr Alex Harding, a GP and lecturer at the University of Exeter, collected the data from surveys sent out to 31 medical schools during 2011-2013.

The authors said: ‘The quantity of time provided for teaching students in general practice, which was already low, has plateaued, and may be falling.’

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘All medical schools have a responsibility to promote the opportunities and challenges of a career as a GP. They receive public money and should therefore contribute to the production of a balanced workforce.’

She warned that continued failure to promote general practice as a career would be ‘devastating’ for both the profession and the NHS as a whole.

‘I have been a GP for over 30 years and I still believe that, if properly resourced and supported, it can be the best job in the world,’ she added. ‘Undergraduates and doctors in training need to be exposed to high-quality general practice so they can see this too.’

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