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MPs block proposals to reform GP training

By Steve Nowottny

Ministers have drawn criticism from the GPC after blocking recommendations designed to transform GP training and raise the status of the profession.

The Department of Health has decided to delay any changes to GP training ‘on whatever basis is appropriate' until 2011 at the earliest, despite strong support for proposals to radically revise the Modernising Medical Careers programme.

But the department will press ahead with plans to hand regulation of training to the GMC, which will now merge with the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board.

An independent inquiry into the MMC programme, led by Sir John Tooke, had recommended extending GP training from three to five years, in a move described by the RCGP as a ‘fantastic opportunity'.

But Health Secretary Alan Johnson last week said he would take no immediate decision on the proposals, despite admitting they merited ‘serious consideration'.

‘I have decided to defer the decision on these recommendations at this stage,' he said. ‘I believe all stakeholders will welcome a period of stability after the turbulence of 2007.'

Sir John's report had called for GP training to be beefed up, with three years in core training followed by two years as a GP specialist registrar, supervised by a director of postgraduate GP education. It also recommended Foundation Year 2 training be scrapped, with a net increase in the total training time to become a GP of one year.

GP leaders urged the government to push ahead with the plans as soon as possible.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said: ‘There's clearly lots of implications for training and workforce but nonetheless I think the actual principle of the idea is something we should be moving to as quickly as possible.'

He added: ‘The key for us is that prospective GP trainees don't simply become hospital service fodder and genuinely do have training that is relevant to general practice and is based around the GP curriculum.'

Many rank-and-file junior doctors told Pulse they also backed the Tooke proposals, but expressed similar fears over hospital postings.

Dr Amy Small, a trainee in London, said: ‘I agree that more hospital experience is beneficial if subjects such as ENT, ophthalmology and dermatology are included, but I am afraid we will be ‘used' to cover unwanted posts.'

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