RCGP hails 'momentous' plan to extend GP training to four years

The RCGP has hailed a 'momentous day for general practice' after Medical Education England backed its call to extend GP training to four years.

Dr Clare Gerada: 'This is a momentous day for the entire medical profession.'
Dr Clare Gerada: 'This is a momentous day for the entire medical profession.'

The decision was announced after the RCGP put its case for extending training to Medical Education England in a meeting on Wednesday. The college set out its case in a letter to the education authority’s Medical Programme Board earlier this month, calling for a training programme to cover the breadth of general practice with ‘extra focus on the key clinical, generalist and leadership skills that the GPs of the future will require’.

Under the recommendations, jointly drawn up with the GPC, the certificate of completion of training and MRCGP qualification will be awarded at the end of year four.

The first four-year courses are likely to begin from 2014, according to RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada. GP leaders warned that if no additional funding was provided by the DH, deaneries may have to cut training posts for other medical specialties to cover the cost of an extra year of GP training.

Dr Gerada said: ‘We are absolutely thrilled that our educational case for extending and enhancing GP training has been accepted. We were really confident that we had an exceptionally strong, evidence-based case and the decision by the Medical Programme Board backs this up.

‘This is a momentous day, not just for general practice, but for the entire medical profession and, most importantly, for our patients. It is the beginning of a long road that will see general practice training evolve to meet the changes that are already taking place in our practices and communities.

‘I want to reiterate what I have said before: this is not a criticism of current training, or of existing and recently-qualified trainees. It is recognition that the needs of our patients and the communities we serve are changing, and for us to be able to meet these changes head on, we must make these positive steps forward.

‘GPs are facing the challenges of an ageing population, with multiple, complex co-morbidities, and our training needs to develop to reflect that. This fantastic first step will ensure the future-proofing of general practice for generations to come.’

A study written by the RCGP and the Health Foundation last year recommended training be increased to five years.

The GPC said it was a ‘pragmatic’ decision to ask for four years because of the ‘financial situation’ but five years was the ‘ultimate aim’.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the BMA would press the government to provide additional funding to cover the cost of extending GP training. But he said: 'The way that other specialties obtain extensions to training or variations has been effectively through deaneries finding the resources for that to happen.'

He argued that deaneries could find the money by cutting training posts for hospital specialties, reflecting plans to shift NHS work increasingly into general practice.

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