Medical school 'banter' undermining general practice, warns RCGP

The RCGP and Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPSYCH) have denounced medical school 'banter', warning it is far from 'a bit of fun' and is stigmatising their specialties.

RCGP headquarters: Euston Square, London
RCGP headquarters: Euston Square, London

RCGP chairwoman Professor Maureen Baker and Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the RCPSYCH, have joined forces against medical school 'hierarchies', calling for all specialties to be equally respected.

They said it was ‘not that we can't take a joke’, as banter prevalent in medical schools is also demeaning to patients who rely on GP and psychiatrist services, who deserve ‘the best minds’ treating them.

Evidence published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) found that systematic denigration of the specialties in medical schools is ‘risking patient safety and stripping patients of their dignity’.

GP recruitment

General practice and psychiatry are the two most ‘bad-mouthed’ in medical schools, the research showed, which is having a tangible impact on medical students’ choice of specialty.

Professors Baker and Wessely said a hierarchy had been created in medical schools that put physical over mental health, hospital care over community care and specialism over generalism.

They added: ‘This [hierarchy] must be replaced by respect and understanding throughout medicine that all specialties are important, that all specialties have their own set of skills and values and the NHS will only function properly when we have sufficient numbers of doctors practising all specialties.’

Professor Baker said: ‘I first studied attitudes towards general practice in medical schools almost 20 years ago and it’s really depressing how little things have changed. It’s so frustrating when we know that the things people are saying about general practice are simply untrue.

Medical school banter

‘It's also very concerning, when we think GPs and our teams conduct 90% of all NHS patient contacts, that this "banter" is yet another barrier we are up against when trying to recruit enough GPs to ensure a safe and robust service for the future of patient care.

‘It has to stop. The college is doing what we can to challenge misplaced and archaic stereotypes, and our Think GP campaign, aims to show what a fantastic career choice general practice can be - but  it's clear that more needs to be done from within medical schools, and medicine as a whole.’

Professor Wessely said:  ‘We're not – and shouldn’t be - calling for any form of censorship or an outright ban on banter. That wouldn't work; there is nothing worse than creating a learning environment where people are afraid to speak their mind.

‘But the sinister form this so-called banter takes needs to stop – it's about fostering respect, between healthcare professionals for the specific roles we each bring to medicine, but also for our patients, whatever condition they present with.’

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