Medical school triples students' exposure to general practice

General practice exposure for medical students in Bristol will triple over the next five years in a bid to encourage them to choose GP careers.

From October the number of GP teaching sessions across the medical school will increase from 17,000 hours per year, rising to 50,000 hours by 2021.

Bristol University's medical school has launched a campaign for more GP practices to take on students to deliver the increase in hours in general practice.

The medical school said that despite soaring pressure on the profession, GPs should open their doors to students to improve GP recruitment. Students offered longer spells in general practice are more likely to opt for GP careers, and most trainees and newly-qualified GPs say they would be more likely to apply for a job that entails teaching.

GP training

The campaign comes after a similar program at the University of Cambridge last year helped to triple numbers of Foundation Year 2 doctors electing to directly progress to GP training - from 7 to 22%.

The launch of the program is against a backdrop of a local and national crisis of GP numbers. A recent study published in BMJ Open that found that two out of five GPs in south-west England plan to quit the profession.

Dr Trevor Thompson, a GP and head of teaching at the University of Bristol Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) said: 'With GP numbers under threat like never before, and the extraordinary pressures on the NHS more generally, it is vital that we unite as a profession to attract and retain the best and brightest students.'

However he warned that taking on more medical students could increase pressure on practices. 'It takes time to teach students. A certain number of patients are cut out of the surgery lists as a result, and it can inhibit the type of conversation I have with patients.'

Medical students

Dr Thompson added that current rates of funding for teaching medical students vary across the country, and fall short of the cost of hiring locums to make up patient consultations missed.

There are currently 600 GPs supervising medical students through the university. CAPC plans to mitigate some of the increased teaching demand by providing 'cluster-based teaching', with GPs teaching as many as 12 students in a group.

Dr Thompson said that despite the extra workload, having students at a practice 'is good for the morale of the clinical team'. He added: 'It also provides practices recognition that they are delivering a high standard of care.'

In 2016, 15% of Foundation Year 2 doctors who graduated from the University of Bristol progressed directly to GP training. This placed it 12th out of 24 UK medical schools. The data does not account for doctors electing to take time out before progressing to specialty training.

Last year, Health Education England published a landmark report calling for a national approach to increase primary care contact hours for medical students. The dramatic increase in hours at the University of Bristol will mean that 30% of the medical student curriculum will now involve community learning.

  • For more details on how to take part in the University of Bristol training programme contact: phc-teaching@bristol.ac.uk

Photo: JH Lancy

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