General Practitioners recognised as ‘specialists’
Author: Jo Carlowe
General Practitioners have gained recognition as expert medical generalists, from key medical leadership organisations who want this status reflected in law.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the British Medical Association (BMA) and the General Medical Council (GMC) have this week released a joint statement recognising GPs as expert medical generalists, and as such, 'specialists' in general practice.
However, GPs are not currently legally recognised as 'specialists' in the UK once they have qualified, due to the existence of two separate GMC registers for senior doctors.
The RCGP and BMA, with the support of the GMC, are calling for the Medical Act to be changed so that GPs are legally recognised as 'specialist'.
Since 2006 the 'GP Register' and (since 1997) the 'Specialist Register' have been in place to provide assurance to patients, employers and the profession that a doctor has achieved the standards, knowledge and skills required to practise safely at a senior level.
However, as the RCGP and BMA have set out for some years, a single advanced medical register for senior doctors that recognises them as 'specialists' would simplify the structure of these assurances and make this expertise much clearer.
Most countries within Europe already legally recognise general practice as a specialty. Creating a single advanced medical register in the UK by expanding the ‘Specialist Register’ to include general practice requires the UK Parliament to amend the Medical Act – the decision to make such a change rests with the four UK governments.
In 2007, GP Specialty Training was formally introduced in the UK, which replaced previous models of training. This followed the revision of the criteria within the regulatory framework of the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board for approval of 'specialist' training in general practice.
To practice as a GP, UK graduates must complete a minimum of three years General Practitioner Specialty Training on a GMC approved programme, pass the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners assessments and gain a Certificate of Completion of Training.
Assurance processes are in place to ensure doctors who move to the UK from abroad, or demonstrate equivalent knowledge, skills and experience, also meet these high standards.