Junior doctors launch video to tackle denigration of general practice in medical schools

Two junior doctors have created a video to tackle negative perceptions of general practice after they were discouraged from openly expressing their wish to become family doctors during medical training.

'Just a GP' video tackles denigration of general practice (Photo: Just a GP campaign)
'Just a GP' video tackles denigration of general practice (Photo: Just a GP campaign)

The ‘Just a GP’ campaign asks some of the UK’s top GPs, including former RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, to discuss their experiences of working in general practice - busting common myths about the profession.

The doctors behind the video told GPonline that general practice can be talked down at medical schools, with clinicians and trainers using ‘denigrating language’ when talking about the profession, or being dimissive of those who pursue careers in primary care.

They warn that students must not be made to feel embarrassed about wanting to become GPs while at medical school - and hope the video will break the cycle of 'throwaway language' used in medical schools.

Medical training

One of the video's creators, Dr David Simmonds - who is about to start his F1 training at Torbay Hospital - said: ‘We were three quarters of the way through our training at medical school - both of us had an interest in general practice quite early on - and we noticed the same thing.

‘People were using this throwaway language [around general practice] when we were asked what we would like to specialise in, for example, people would say, “Oh, you just want to be a GP?” or "You'll be wasted as a GP". So the campaign came from there as we both thought maybe we should do something about this.’

Dr Ellie Read, who is about to start her F1 training at Kingston Hospital, said she had been told by an older student at medical school that she should not share her interest in becoming a GP because there was a ‘strong chance’ she would not get the same training opportunities.

She said: 'We've certainly heard in lectures people say, "well half of you are going to be GPs", as if it's kind of an inevitability and it's not your choice. Even the way it's talked about, from day one a picture is painted that it's something you don't ever aspire to, you just end up having to do it.

General practice myths

'I always used to say that I didn't know, or that I wasn't sure what I wanted to do just in case [I wasn't given the same opportunities as others], and I think that's quite telling.

‘So the thing for us was about working out how we could make that information more relevant and get people better engaged with the video than the reports. So it was a combination of our experiences and raising the conversation in a different way.’

In the video, GPs at various stages of their careers speak about the reality of working in general practice, explaining the diversity of their daily work and dispelling myths that general practice is ‘boring’.

Dr Read hoped the video, which now has thousands of views, would change the way people looked at general practice. Dr Simmonds added: 'A lot of the feedback we've had is that the video is great because it shows what general practice is about, it shows a lot of the challenges, and a lot of stories of what being a GP in the NHS is all about.

'It's grown into this slightly bigger thing that I think we were aware maybe it might do, but we never thought it would get this much attention, and that people would talk about it as much as this.'

A report published by the RCGP and the Medical Schools Council (MSC) in 2017 found that over three quarters of medical students heard clinicians, trainers or academics making negative remarks about general practice by their fifth year at university.

Seven out of 10 students heard derogatory comments about general practice while on clinical placements, and 37% heard negative comments in medical schools.

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