Rapid expansion of GP role 'risks undermining patient care'

GPs' role is widening significantly and could force a major overhaul of selection criteria and training programmes for the profession, a study has found.

Professor Amanda Howe: research backs RCGP warnings about general practice
Professor Amanda Howe: research backs RCGP warnings about general practice

Researchers repeated a general practice job analysis first carried out 12 years ago and found that the traditional role of the GP is being challenged as the role broadens, particularly as NHS reforms take effect.

Increased duties could create conflicts as GPs balance patient care and financial responsibilities, the researchers warned.

The report's authors warned that while 'previous research in GP selection has tended to focus on indicators of clinical judgment, reasoning and patient communication', in future 'skills associated with working in multiprofessional teams and practice management' may need increasingly to be factored in.

They warned that current GP training may not properly prepare doctors for the expanding requirements of the role.

Writing in the BJGP, Professor Fiona Patterson of Cambridge University found that in future GPs will need an additional set of skills to meet the challenges of the new NHS and patient expectations.

New skills will be necessary to cover the need to work outside the practice, embrace community involvement, and to take on new leadership, finance, resource management and commissioning roles.

The study questioned whether current GP training would adequately prepare doctors for increased psychosocial issues facing patients as well as non-clinical duties.

Professor Patterson said the study provided evidence of a ‘pressing need’ to determine how education and training can properly equip GPs for the greater breadth of capabilities required.

RCGP workforce lead Professor Amanda Howe said the study reinforced everything the college had been saying through its Commission on Generalism.

She said: 'Many of our members working in general practice today are already demonstrating the broader breadth of skills outlined in the study, particularly with the introduction of the new commissioning agenda.

'But we must acknowledge that most GPs entered general practice to care for patients. This vital relationship is the cornerstone of the NHS and it must not be lost or downgraded as we take on additional roles and responsibilities.'

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