'Radical' rethink needed for GP training

Major changes to medical education and GP training are needed to ensure the next generation of GPs can meet the growing demands on primary care, according to a senior health official.

Professor Wendy Reid: GP training reform
Professor Wendy Reid: GP training reform

Professor Wendy Reid, medical director at Health Education England, said medical schools had to take a greater responsibility in providing the NHS with enough GPs to meet the current shortfall in numbers. Video of her speech from the RCGP conference is below.

The RCGP believes the NHS needs a minimum of 10,000 extra GPs, a plea which chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada personally made to health secretary Jeremy Hunt at the conference on Thursday.

In 2012, the college succeeded in a bid to extend and enhance GP training to four years to better equip GPs to manage the challenges of multimorbidity in an ageing population.

Under Health Education England, formed in April from the NHS reforms, all medical education budgets from undergraduate through to post-graduate and CPD are controlled by a single body for the first time. It has pledged to ensure 50% of medical students become GPs.

The Centre for Workforce Intelligence, which advises the DH, reported last year that the NHS is training too many hospital doctors, while 'current growth in general practice is not strong enough to meet the predicted need'.

In a speech to the conference yesterday, Professor Reid agreed that GP training needed to evolve.

‘I think patients expect high quality; nobody expects to be treated badly, nobody wants bad outcomes,’ she said. ‘We have to fulfil those expectations through a different way of educating and training.

‘If we look at the enhanced GP training, it’s very difficult to say that the people you’re producing now aren’t good, because they are; I’ve met them. But there is something about enhancing skills, perhaps thinking differently, and I would like to think very radically about what the next generation need.’

She challenged the GMC over the current medical school curriculum, claiming that it should be constructed to encourage the development of certain types of doctor, particularly GPs.

‘It is about ensuring that medical schools understand their responsibility... not just to provide the research doctors of tomorrow, but to actually look at what the public needs.’

Changes are also needed in the current workforce so it can meet the challenges facing the modern NHS. Figures show that 20% of all GPs who drop out of the workforce are women aged under 34.

Professor Reid won applause for saying it was ‘a nonsense that the NHS can’t do workforce planning more effectively’. ‘We should be able to plan for a workforce that embraces women who have families, and women who don’t have families, and men who want to spend more time with their families,’ she said.

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