RCGP helps drive reform of primary care in India

The RCGP launched a new initiative at a summit in Delhi last week to help re-build the crumbling primary care system in India.

Dr Chandramouli: ‘Family medicine is very important in India but we have a huge shortage of doctors and gaps in medical education that need to be filled'
Dr Chandramouli: ‘Family medicine is very important in India but we have a huge shortage of doctors and gaps in medical education that need to be filled'

More than 50 leading figures in healthcare and government were invited from around India to the inaugural Family Medicine India event, including the health secretary and his deputy.

The meeting was jointly organised with Haymarket Medical Media, the publishers of GPonline.com and mycme.com, and the School of Health Sciences at MIT Pune.

The aim was to address the crisis in Indian primary care caused by the focus on specialist, hospital-based treatments at the expense of family medicine in the community.

India’s health secretary Dr K Chandramouli told the meeting: ‘Family medicine is very important in India but we have a huge shortage of doctors and gaps in medical education that need to be filled.

‘We need the presence of the general practitioner, and the RCGP have done a wonderful job in this direction. We should take their advice before embarking on a programme of this kind.’

Dr Raman Kumar, president of the Academy of Family Physicians of India, said the lack of educational courses in family medicine and the limited career opportunities meant few medical students were attracted to the discipline.

Professor Gautam Sen, director of surgical education at the Association of Surgeons of India, said family medicine had deteriorated to the point where the public and other healthcare professionals no longer recognised the concept.

‘With the tremendous advances in medical technology and designer drugs, somewhere down the line primary care took a back seat. Our role model was once the good family doctor but it became the highly trained specialist doing highly specialist procedures.’

Professor Sen said the Indian healthcare system was now 65% private and catering for the top 10% of the population.

‘We now have complex technology-driven healthcare when people are dying of malaria and road traffic accidents.’

Dr Garth Manning, medical director of the RCGP’s International Development Programme, said the college had been active in India for 12 years and produced an educational programme written by and for South Asian doctors, leading to college membership via the MRCGP[INT] exam.

He told the meeting: ‘We are in no way trying to export a UK version of general practice to India. But we know that comprehensive, preventive healthcare leads to better health outcomes, lower costs and greater equality in health, which are important issues for any governments to consider.’

Colin Cooper

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