Consultants must be 'primary care literate'

All consultants should do general practice placements during medical training so they have the primary care 'literacy' needed for the future NHS, a leading academic GP believes.

Consultation: academics believe consultants benefit from more training in GP consultations

Professor Robert McKinley, professor of academic general practice at Keele University, has evaluated the impact of Keele's extended final-year general practice apprenticeships. The first cohort completed their studies earlier this year.

The apprenticeships involve students spending 100 days in consultations with patients during their fifth year of study.

By the time they graduate, medical students on the Keele course will have consulted with more than 500 patients in general practice.

Professor McKinley presented the results of his study at the Society for Academic Primary Care and RCGP joint conference in Glasgow last week. Speaking ahead of the conference, he said students felt the placements left them well prepared for a career in any field of medicine.

'In the future, much more in medicine will be delivered in primary care,' he said.

'All doctors will need to be literate in primary care and understand what primary care can achieve.

'Students can't learn that at one remove. They need to be in general practice to learn that.'

Professor McKinley said that changes to the Keele programme had allowed the university to take a long-term view of medical training needs.

'A lot of education in general practice has been pragmatic,' he said. 'We have taken a clear view that what we're doing is something general practice is very good at.'

He said patients had also provided positive feedback about the training programme.

Patients welcomed being able to spend more time discussing their problems. They also felt they were 'giving something back' to the NHS by helping medical students during their training, Professor McKinley said.

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