BMA left 'disappointed' as target for GP training uptake is postponed

BMA leaders have hit out at the government's 'disappointing' decision to postpone by a year a target to ensure that half of all medical trainees choose careers in general practice.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni: disappointed at postponement of target (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni: disappointed at postponement of target (Photo: JH Lancy)

In a ‘refreshed mandate’ released by the government, Health Education England (HEE) has been directed to ensure that half of medical trainees completing foundation level training enter GP training programmes by 2016.

This marks a one-year extension from the original target, as HEE was previously told to ensure this was achieved by 2015.

The mandate also told HEE to work with the RCGP towards including compulsory training modules in mental health and dementia as part of GP training, which could see GP training being extended to four years.

The refreshed April 2014 mandate builds upon the first mandate to HEE released in May 2013, and claims to reflect the ‘updated strategic objectives of the government in the areas of workforce planning, health education, training and development’.

Extending the target ‘is not the solution’

The mandate says HEE is responsible for ‘ensuring that our future workforce has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours to meet patients’ needs’. As part of this, it is expected to ensure that 50% of medical students eventually train to become GPs.

This should equate to a target of 3,250 students commencing GP training before 2016.

But Dr Krishna Kasareneni, chairman of the BMA’s trainee subcommittee, expressed doubt that this target could ever be reached without significant investment into general practice, and said that ‘moving the goalposts’ was not the answer.

He said: ‘It is very disappointing that the target of 3,250 which was initially put forward by MEE in the last decade seems to be postponed yet again from 2015 to 2016. Without significant investment in general practice, I fail to see how this number will ever be reached.

'The government needs to investigate the potential of problems associated with GP recruitment.  Simply moving the goal posts yet again is not the solution.’

GP training extended to four years

The government also unveiled plans to consider extending GP training to four years, in a move supported by the DH and HEE. The mandate said that an additional year of training ‘could offer an opportunity to enhance GPs’ awareness of and expertise in mental health conditions, learning disabilities and autism and paediatric care’.

The addition of a fourth year will be 'explored further' by HEE. If accepted, the first of these new extended programmes are scheduled to begin by summer 2016.

Bespoke training courses, to be developed by HEE in alliance with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, will also be provided to allow GPs to develop specialist interest in the care of patients with mental health conditions. E-learning packages are planned to be developed by January 2015 to allow GPs access to up-to-date information on mental health conditions.

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