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GP leaders ask DH to step in over 'patronising' cervical smear training

Exclusive The RCGP and GPC have written to the Department of Health demanding it intervenes to prevent GPs across the country being forced to undertake ‘patronising' and ‘unnecessary' cervical smear training.

GP leaders have seen a surge in demands from NHS managers that GPs undergo the training, with a number of PCTs making a half day or full day update in taking cervical smears compulsory for all GPs.

GPs in areas including Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire and Middlesbrough have been told the training is a contractual requirement, while others have seen the training written into PMS contracts.

A GPC spokesperson told Pulse that the letter urged the Department of Health to advise PCTs against making training complulsory.

She said: ‘We believe that this is an unreasonable requirement, given that the training for undertaking cervical smears is already included in the GP curriculum covered during the period of vocational training for general practice.'

‘Further requirements in this area would serve to distract GPs from other areas of education identified in their personal learning plan through their annual appraisal which may be more helpful, or take up time which could be spent on clinical care.'

The spokesperson added that GPs requiring refresher training in could obtain this through their continuing professional development, either through attending an appropriate course or using other training materials.

GPC representatives have asked the DH to look at less onerous forms of training, such as the e-learning modules used in some areas or DVD learning used in Scotland.

Dr Bill Beeby, chair of the GPC clinical prescribing subcommittee and a GP in Middlesbrough, has refused to undertake the training, branding it as ‘patronising, unnecessary and a complete waste of time.'

He said: ‘Apart from the fact that the cervix has not moved in half a million years and therefore I do not need to be told where it is, I am the only male GP in a practice blessed with two female GPs and two female nurse practitioners who take all the smears.

‘This is a lot of hot air about things we don't need to hear and nobody checks if you are competent at the end of it anyway.'

Dr Peter Graves, chief executive of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC who was among those to bring the issue to the GPC's attention, said colleagues had told him the training was so poor it was an ‘embarrassment' and a ‘complete waste of three hours'.

‘This has been going on for years in our area and really must stop as it wastes valuable time and is totally without value,' he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it had received the letter and was ‘considering the issues raised'.

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