Exclusive: GPs set for 'fast-track' LARC training

GPs will be offered 'fast-track' training to fit long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) from 2013 to solve long-standing issues that prevent patients accessing the devices, the RCGP has announced.

Professor Nigel Sparrow: awful to hear of practices stopping services because GPs can't access training

The college has agreed to work with the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) to allow GPs to train to fit LARCs without needing the faculty's diploma. This aims to increase the numbers of patients able to access the service.

The agreement follows warnings that a lack of investment in training and enhanced services are preventing patients from obtaining LARCs.

Under the plan, GPs would be able to gain a letter of competence to fit LARCs from the FRSH by demonstrating their skills and knowledge without needing to undertake the full academic diploma that is currently required. The college hopes that training more GPs will lead to more patients being fitted with LARCs.

Work on the plan is underway and due to be completed within one year.

Professor Nigel Sparrow, chair of the RCGP professional development board, said GPs currently find it too difficult to get qualified to fit LARCs. 'I hear stories of doctors who can't get training and so are stopping services in practices, which is awful. Patients are then having problems getting LARCs.

'This is about making sure patients know the doctor fitting their LARCs have achieved a standard, which is the same whether it is done through a diploma or an alternative route. So that patient can be reassured doctors are up to date and fit to practice.'

He insisted standards would not be 'dumbed down' but maintained at the same level as the  diploma.

Professor Sparrow said training more GPs would also improve patient choice by increasing the number of patients able to have the devices fitted at their local surgery.

Talks took two years
NICE has encouraged the use of LARCs since its 2005 guideline on contraception. LARCs have a far lower failure rate than oral or barrier contraceptives, yet are used by only 12% of women in Great Britain.

The organisations took two years to agree a way forward on LARC training. The faculty had originally opposed the idea of separating the letter of competence from the diploma, according to Professor Sparrow.

The Peile Report into the faculty's training programmes published earlier this year recommended separating the letter of competence from the full diploma.

Whereas the full academic diploma requires GPs to undertake extensive learning and skills assessment, the letter of competence route will allow GPs to simply 'top up' existing practical skills.

The RCGP said the move will link well with GPs' revalidation portfolios.

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