Struggling GP trainees given option to extend training for up to 18 months

Trainee GPs that struggle to meet required levels after the standard three years of training will now be able to extend their training by up to 18 months, Health Education England (HEE) has said.

GP trainess who fail one or more exams at the end of their usual three years will be able to extend their training by 12 months, with a further exceptional six months.

The move brings GP trainees more in-line with other medical specialties, which are currently allowed to extend their training by 12 months with a further exceptional 12 months.

The BMA welcomed the change, as it warned current system ‘unfairly disadvantage’ some of the more diverse groups of doctors. It is hoped the change will help prevent doctors who initially struggle to pass exams being lost to the profession.

The announcement comes alongside a commitment to make it easier for doctors from other specialties to enter GP training.

It is hoped the move will also help to avoid a ‘catch 22’ situation for trainees who initially do not pass the required exams – as only trainees and fully-qualified GPs can be on the performers list, meaning those who fail can find it difficult to get more experience.

GP training

The previous rules allowed GP trainees to extend training for six months with a further exceptional six months. This discrepancy with other specialties was due to the shorter length of the GP curriculum – no other factors were taken into consideration, HEE said.

BMA GP committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘We are pleased that the review of evidence from HEE supports the BMA’s calls for personalised training. There are a number of reasons why some trainees may fail their exams and the current system and time limits unfairly disadvantage some of the more diverse groups of doctors.

‘It would be pointless to simply increase the number of attempts without targeted support. While it is important that the bar for qualifying as a GP remains at an appropriate level, doctors who have been unsuccessful in their assessments should be supported to reapply for further training to help them to become independent practitioners in the future.’

Professor Simon Gregory, HEE director, said: ‘The amended proposals which we publish today offer a number of routes to support doctors to enter and successfully complete GP training whilst maintaining the gold standard of MRCGP as exit criteria.

‘In particular, this would help doctors who are progressing in training but not able to do so sufficiently in the time allowed.’

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