NHS officials 'evaluating case' for extending GP training to four years

GP training could be extended to four years under a new government workforce strategy, Health Education England (HEE) has revealed, in a move welcomed by the RCGP.

GP training could be extended to four years (Photo: JH Lancy)

GP training could be extended to four years to match other medical specialties, HEE’s 10-year workforce strategy, Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future, has suggested.

The report says general practice ‘is currently the shortest specialty training programme’ and that HEE will now ‘further evaluate’ the case for implementing an extra training year.

It also commits to better recognising long-term locum doctors in workforce planning, given that an increasing number of GPs are opting for locum careers. NHS England is testing methods of doing this through its GP careers plus pilot.

The report highlights targets for an additional 5,000 GPs in general practice by 2020, as well as 1,000 physician associates and 1,500 pharmacists, although GPonline revealed last month that the NHS had lost 1,300 full-time equivalent GPs and 2,000 partners since 2015.

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The report highlights other measures done to improve GP uptake, such as offering study years abroad, overseas recruitment programmes and increasing the number of training places.

In the future, it will also consider ways of making it easier for GPs and consultants to ‘move more readily across traditional organisational boundaries’.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘With over 1m patients visiting their GP surgery today alone, the role of the GP has never been more critical to the survival of the NHS – and the launch of this far-reaching consultation could not be more timely.

‘We are encouraged to see the emphasis on general practice, particularly the proposals for enhanced GP specialty training to include a fourth year focused in the general practice setting.

‘This is something that the College has long been campaigning for and will undoubtedly make our new GPs of the future more confident as well as competent in managing the complexity that is modern day general practice.’

GP workforce

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair, said: ‘It’s vital that the NHS has the right number of doctors with the necessary skill sets to meet rising demand from a growing and ageing population.

‘It is positive that this document acknowledges the need for greater flexibility for staff to meet the demands of a modern workforce, and we welcome proposals for more support for junior doctors.

‘It is imperative that the government gets to grips with the current workforce crisis – failing to act will result in the NHS being unable to attract and retain the necessary doctors and staff to meet the population’s health needs, and it is patients who will suffer as a result.’

HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming said: ‘Continuing with a business as usual approach to workforce planning is no longer sustainable.

‘There needs to be a major shift in the ways we plan in order to make sure we can meet the health needs of the country’s diverse and growing population in the future.'

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