Giving medical students and junior doctors more exposure to general practice placements could give a real boost to interest in GP careers, the outcome suggests.
For F2 leavers in 2016, almost a quarter (22%) of those who graduated from the University of Cambridge and went directly into further training opted to begin GP training, according to official data.
Just one year before, in 2015, the university had the lowest proportion of F2s entering GP training in the England, at just 7%.
Dr Diana Wood, clinical dean at the university’s medical school, told GPonline that the increase came after the school took steps to increase students’ exposure to general practice.
It follows publication of a landmark report from Health Education England (HEE) in November that called for a system-wide approach to bring GP work experience opportunities more in line with those available for secondary care.
The RCGP urged all medical schools to 'regularly review' their curricula to ensure students are given adequate time to practice in the community.
The University of Oxford experienced a similar windfall in F2s opting for general practice, with 23% of those going on for further study entering GP training programmes.
The figures put Oxford in fourth place and Cambridge in fifth among all medical schools for producing the highest proportion of F2s electing to go straight into GP training – a huge turnaround for the two schools that had the lowest and second-lowest scores out of all 32 schools in 2015.
The steep rises experienced by both universities were set against a backdrop of declining rates among most of the other medical schools in England, with three quarters (72%) producing smaller proportions of GPs in 2016 over 2015.
Dr Wood said: ‘This is the highest number that we have ever achieved, and although the numbers vary year-on-year, we are delighted to see this increase, which reflects our aim to encourage our students to consider careers in all specialties.
Exposure to general practice
‘The increase in teaching time in general practice in the clinical school’s 2005 curriculum allowed students greater exposure to general practice, and this time was further increased in the 2015 teaching programme.
‘We would like to thank the practices teaching our medical students, who are doing sterling work in and beyond the East of England region and to the clinical school’s GP education group for all their work in recruiting and supporting them.’
The RCGP said it was ‘excellent news’ that more graduates from ‘some of the best known universities in the UK’ were choosing general practice.
‘This adds to a growing body of evidence which clearly shows that increasing medical students’ exposure to general practice teaching really can make a difference – not just in boosting numbers, but in breaking down any archaic attitudes that general practice is in some way inferior to other medical specialties,’ said college chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.
‘There is a long way to go before we have the thousands more medical students we need taking up GP training to meet demand, but increasing exposure to general practice during medical school is a step in the right direction and we would encourage all medical schools to regularly review their curricula to ensure they are optimising time in the community for their medical students.’
Photo: JH Lancy