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Defining all of the skills needed to become a GP – that's the aim of proposals for a revised MRCGP curriculum

By Rob Finch

Prospective GPs will have to prove their ability in 14 clinical, interpersonal and management areas under a proposed new curriculum for the MRCGP.

The draft curriculum, released by the RCGP this week and set to come into force in 2007, aims to define for the first time all of the skills needed to become a GP.

Clinical areas covered include care of children, acutely ill and elderly people; sexual and mental health; palliative care and gender specific issues.

Other areas of competence included in the revamped MRCGP will include management in primary care, the

GP consultation and ‘being a GP'.

The college is overhauling the membership exam to make it suitable for use as the compulsory qualification for entry to the profession.

Professor Steve Field, chair of the RCGP education network and architect of the curriculum, said it was the result of four years of research including the biggest literature review ever done in general practice.

He added that it also aimed to cover all of the features expected to be included in the forthcoming primary care White Paper.

Professor Field said: ‘We will be training the GPs of the future to be highly competent and prepared for whatever comes in the White Paper on primary care, which we suspect will mean more responsibility.'

GPs said the draft curriculum, which is out for consultation until 6 January 2006, was a good reference tool and a vast improvement on the current situation.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator with responsibility for education, said the curriculum added ‘maturity' and ‘clarity', but it was difficult to define what it is to be a GP so briefly.

He said: ‘The college would be the first to recognise that general practice is an art as well as a science, which is why working alongside an experienced trainer is invaluable.'

Dr Catti Moss, a GP trainer in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, said it would be helpful as a reference for trainers.

She said: ‘It's going to be useful to help people find out what they don't know that they don't know.'

But she warned it was inconveniently large and vague in places because of the need to cram in so much about the specialty of generalism.

What the MRCGP will test

• Being a GP

• The GP consultation

• Personal and professional responsibilities

• Management in primary care

• Healthy people: promoting health and preventing disease

• Care of children and young people

• Care of acutely ill people

• Care of older adults

• Gender specific health issues

• Sexual health

• Care of people with cancer and palliative care

• Mental health

• Learning disabilities

• Clinical management

GP reaction to the new MRCGP curriculum

‘It's good. In the past there's been no real reference tool for registrars.'

Dr David Wrigley, a GP in Carnforth, Lancashire, and a member of the GPC registrars subcommittee

‘The more knowledge and experience GPs have the better able they will be to deal with problems. It will help reduce waiting times and improve standards of care.'

Dr Stephen Kownacki, a GP in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and chair of the Primary Care Dermatology Society

‘It's a start. Because gastroenterology is not in the QOF it gets neglected in clinical practice.'

Dr Richard Stevens, a GP trainer in Oxford and chair of the Primary Care Gastroenterology Society

‘Everything is constantly changing – you may have shown competence at one time and it may no longer be relevant. You've got to show continuing competence.'

Dr Iain Gilchrist, a GP with a special interest in rheumatology in Hatfield Heath, Essex

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