More cash needed to train GPs and secure profession’s future

Author: Caroline White
More cash needed to train GPs and secure profession’s future

Undergraduates must be fairly funded to enable them to train in primary care and help secure the future of the profession, says the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).

National guidance on the funding of GP teaching hasn’t been issued since 1995, leaving practices getting around 40% less funding to train undergraduate students than their secondary care equivalents – amounting to a shortfall of around £44 million per year, says the RCGP.

GP practices currently receive on average £620 a week to host training placements, yet the true cost is estimated to be £1100, which is around 40% less than the average amount received by hospitals to host training placements. This is despite no difference in costs.

Earlier this week, medical students and trainee doctors from the RCGP took hundreds of signed postcards to the Department of Health and Social Care, calling on the government to invest in primary care teaching and bring funding tariffs in line with other areas of medical training.

A selection of the signatures, collected by students and trainees in medical schools and GP practices across the country, were presented to the department on Wednesday in an effort to move the issue up the agenda. 

Emma Tonner and Dr Devina Maru, RCGP national co-chairs of the Medical Student and Foundation Doctor Committee, said: "This issue is really important to medical students, but we need the secretary of state to know that this is also important to patients, as well as qualified GPs and their teams.

"Evidence shows that GP tutors have a profound influence on student perceptions of general practice. The higher the quality of the placement, the more likely we are to choose to train to work as a GP.”

They added: "We hope that the government will listen and understand that this is about securing the future of the profession and showing young people that general practice is the route they should be taking."

Chair of the RCGP, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, has written to the secretary of state for health and social care several times over the past two years, calling for sufficient funding to be provided for education and training across primary care. The RCGP is calling for at least £31m a year to cover these costs. 

"General practice is the bedrock of the NHS and we need at least half of medical students to choose the profession to ensure it will be fit for the future, yet undergraduate GP teaching continues to be severely under resourced compared to placements in secondary care,” she said. 

"The NHS Long Term Plan sets out an ambitious vision for the future, with more care being delivered in the community where patients need it most - to make this a reality, it is vital that adequate resources are provided to fund high-quality teaching in general practice," she added.

The RCGP and Medical Schools Council's 2018 report, Destination GP, highlights the critical role of GP tutors and high-quality clinical placements in developing the future GP workforce.

The report found that exposure to GP placements during medical school was a key influencer on whether students were likely to choose general practice as their speciality. It also found that medical students' choice of specialty is most influenced by their interaction with individual GPs during their placement.