Former BMA chair and London GP Sir Sam Everington confirmed to GPonline that plans for the ‘massively attractive’ GP trainee scheme were progressing and that London-based pilots would hopefully be rolled out in the next ‘one to two years’.
Sir Sam, who is also the chair of Tower Hamlets CCG in east London, said he is having ‘regular strategy and operational’ meetings with Health Education England (HEE) and the GMC to shape a training model that is ‘fit for the next generation of doctors’.
Currently, medical graduates who want to become GPs have to complete a two-year foundation programme across a variety of medical environments before starting a three-year speciality training programme for general practice. This normally consists of 18 months in an approved training practice with a further 18 months in approved hospital posts.
The new scheme will offer trainees a five-year general practice posting ‘straight out of medical school’.
Although there isn’t a firm date for a launch, it is hoped that the scheme will be begin across ‘seven pilot sites’ in East London within ‘one to two years’. After that, Sir Sam says that he expects there will be ‘enormous demand to accelerate the pilot across the country.’
The programme will equip family doctors of the future with core primary care skills such as practice leadership, managing multimorbidities and team working. It will also give trainees more control over where they live and work and provide ‘continuity of mentorship’.
Speaking to GPonline, Sir Sam said: ‘It’s about recognising the primacy of apprenticeship training and having a wrap-around team who support you in your work as a junior doctor. It’s recognising that we should have confidence as GPs to train our own GPs instead of - dare I say it - handing it over to the hospitals.
‘Now that doesn’t mean you won’t get within those five years an element of hospital training - actually the expectation is half a day a week there will be a [hospital] training module - but that then becomes bespoke and personalised to the individual and relates to what their passions are in terms of medicine.’
One of the main drivers behind the development of a new GP trainee scheme is the changing face of general practice and the changing priorities of doctors.
‘The younger generation want something different,’ said Sir Sam. ‘They want portfolio careers, they don’t want to sign leases, increasingly they don’t want to be burdened with all the complexities of partnerships, they want to do different things, they want a family life. They want all these things and rightly so and it’s up to us to come up with a model that is fit for the next generation of doctors.’
In addition, the programme will ‘significantly shorten’ the time it takes for trainees to become ‘really supportive’ to the primary care workforce – Sir Sam suggested that those undertaking the new placements will be able to do 95% of the clinical work seen in primary care ‘within a year or two’.
‘It gets them up to a massive skillset much more rapidly which then gives them the freedom and the opportunity to do so many other things,’ he said.
‘By the end of five years if they wanted to they could have a portfolio career – they could be trained as a partner, they could do a masters in general practice, they will have done the MRCGP… All those things will be possible at the end of five years whereas what we get at the moment after five years is somebody who can be a GP but is quite often not trained as a partner or in leadership.’
A GMC spokesperson said that although it had not yet received a 'detailed proposal' for the new training programme it was 'supportive of initiatives which could help to strengthen our GP workforce through education and training'.
‘All curricula changes must meet our standards and requirements for approval, to ensure they are educationally robust and support the needs of doctors and patients,' the spokesperson added.
HEE executive director of education and quality and national medical director Professor Wendy Reid said: ‘Health Education England is always looking for innovative ideas to improve recruitment to general practice and as outlined in our draft workforce strategy, we stated we would investigate options around GP training in the future.'
2018 saw the highest number of people entering GP training in NHS history, surpassing the annual target of 3,250 for the very first time.