The scheme - the first of its kind from the RCGP - is funding the delivery of more than 220 placements for students across the UK via 12 partner medical schools (see box below), as well as further workshops, teaching resources and learning tools for participants.
The RCGP decided to start its own scheme after pilots funded by Health Education England were launched last year.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard told GPonline: ‘Encouraging young people to consider a career in primary care is crucial to helping inspire the next generation of GPs, so we’re delighted to be able to offer our Primary Care Work Experience Programme to help students gain an insight into the work that family doctors do.
‘The truth is that initiatives like this are needed now more than ever; our profession is caught in a 'pincer movement' of GPs retiring early and, despite more training places than ever, we still don’t have sufficient numbers of students choosing to embark on general practice training, potentially putting the future of the family doctor at threat as the population increases and people are living longer.’
One of the medical schools partnering with the RCGP to offer the work experience placements is St George’s University in London. The college's funding will allow the university to offer primary care placements to year 12 students for the first time.
St George's Shadowing Scheme has been running for a number of years but, until now, students had only been able to undertake clinical work experience in a hospital setting. This year, a third of the young people taking part in the scheme will be placed in general practices across the boroughs of Merton and Wandsworth in south London.
Jess Bond, head of St George’s University Widening Participation programme, said: ‘The vast majority of healthcare is delivered in primary care settings, but opportunities for students to gain work experience in this area can be limited. We are very pleased to have been able to expand our successful St George’s University healthcare shadowing scheme in 2018 to include 10 new work experience placements in local GP practices.’
The placements - which will take place throughout July and August - include financial assistance and support throughout, and aim to provide students who want to go into health degrees with work experience and confidence.
GP Forward View
Ms Bond added: ‘This is a really exciting opportunity for Year 12 students to see healthcare in the community rather than a hospital setting, becoming immersed in different activities within the practice and understanding more about the roles of the many and varied healthcare professionals that make up the primary care team.
‘The RCGP has provided funding and supporting materials for both the students taking part and for the practices who are involved in the scheme. For example, there is a work experience reflective diary and materials which are used at the preparation and reflection sessions we run for students to ensure that they get the most out of their placements.’
Last year, 86% of those who took part in the shadowing scheme at St George’s said they intended to go on to study medicine, while 87% said it had made them more confident in their ability to successfully apply for a healthcare course at university.
Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Being a GP can be the best job in the world, and I hope young people taking part in our work experience programme are able to get a taste for how challenging, intellectually stimulating and diverse a career in primary care can be.
‘GPs working in the NHS today will know better than anyone that the joys of general practice are only felt when our profession is properly resourced. That's why we need to see NHS England's GP Forward View, which pledges £2.4bn extra a year for general practice as well as 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 members of the wider practice team, delivered, in full, as a matter of urgency."
Last month, former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted the government was ‘struggling’ to meet its pledge to increase the number of GPs in England by 5,000 by 2020.
|Medical schools taking part in the scheme|