Nothing general about general practice, NHS ad campaign tells students

The NHS in England has launched a social media advertising campaign to attract more doctors into general practice.

The campaign, part of the 10-point GP workforce plan launched in January, is spearheaded by Health Education England and backed and co-funded by the RCGP, NHS England and the GPC.

Six short videos as well as posters (below right) and other materials will be published over six weeks in the run up to the next annual recruitment cycle. Using the slogan, ‘there’s nothing general about general practice’, the campaign hopes to attract foundation doctors and medical students to make a positive choice for a career in the service.Click to view full-size poster

The campaign will attempt to reverse a recruitment slump that saw a fifth of available GP trainee posts left vacant after two rounds of recruitment in 2015.

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GP and HEE clinical lead for the campaign professor Simon Gregory explained that the campaign slogan was saying ‘every day is different’.

‘Every patient is different, and every consultation is different,' he said. ‘It's about the rich variety and challenge of general practice, rather than it being a homogenised career.’

Medics who responds to the ads will be put in touch with a GP ambassador, a grassroots GP who has volunteered to speak to potential recruits about what the job is like. 

‘We are not in anyway trying to gloss over the problems of general practice’, said professor Gregory. ‘The issues of workload, and bureaucracy, and finance - as Simon Stevens himself has acknowledged - are very much there. This is not trying to market against that.’

GP recruitment video

The first video released as part of the campaign features a GP filling out a form to help a patient go skydiving.

The pilot campaign is funded jointly by the four supporting organisations, although HEE said it was unable to say how much it cost.

GP recruitment target

There were no targets or estimates of how many extra GPs might be recruited through the campaign, although there will be an evaluation of its effectiveness afterwards.

‘I don't know how many people it will reach or the effect it will have on recruitment’, professor Gregory said. ‘Anything we can do increase people making a positive choice to be a GP, then whoever does that will make it a success.’

The marketing campaign is part of a range of initiatives underway to recruit an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020. Professor Gregory said he understood the scepticism of some GPs about the target. ‘But this is one of a huge number of things we are doing with our partners to increase recruitment. We just have to work together.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘We already know GPs are the bedrock of our health service – and the NHS’s own plan for the future makes them the driving force for change in the way we care for people. As the campaign says, there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of general practice – and I hope this will help to attract the GPs of tomorrow.’

Pressure on GPs

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘We hope this video tackles the perception that general practice is not as exciting as other medical specialties. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘I’ve been a GP for more than 30 years – it is a stimulating and diverse profession that offers numerous opportunities. What’s more, GPs are now performing procedures every day in our consultation rooms that a decade ago would automatically have been referred to hospital specialists.

‘General practice is under pressure, but there is now a real push for more resources into general practice and to build up the GP workforce. To any medical student considering general practice – I welcome you to a challenging yet exhilarating career where no two days are ever the same.’

GPC workforce subcommittee chairman Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: 'It is important that we change perceptions of general practice and inspire the next generation of medical graduates to become GPs. 

'We want to see an increase the number of applications for GP training places for 2016/17 and this campaign could help to achieve that. However, it is only one part of a wider solution and the government has to address these core problems so that we can truly attract the GPs we need.'

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