This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

Medical schools warn students: 'Fail and become GPs'

Exclusive Medical school deans are telling undergraduates that general practice is a ‘second-class’ career option that students will fall into if they ‘fail’ their studies, GP leaders have said.

A series of reports have suggested that attempts to change what the RCGP referred to as a ‘toxic’ culture in medical school are not yet working, with students being offered ‘unacceptable’ and ‘damaging’ accounts of the value of general practice as a profession.

It comes amid a GP trainee shortage, with Pulse revealing earlier this year that the number of applications for the first batch of GP training schemes had fallen for the second year in a row, and last year 12% of training places were unfilled nationally, which has led to NHS England developing a ten-point strategy to increase GP numbers.

The Medical Schools Council told Pulse that it was working with the RCGP on a scheme to promote general practice in its schools, and that its members had made a ‘commitment’ to articulate the importance of general practice to students

However, Sir John Oldham, chair of the Independent Commission on Whole-Person Care and a GP in Glossop, wrote on Twitter that a medical school dean told a new intake of students last September that ‘We work you hard because we don’t want you to fail and become GPs’.

Similarly, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told delegates the Welsh LMCs conference last month that the RCGP council had heard one account where students were told ‘50% of you are going to be GPs, and if you don’t work hard enough that is where you will end up’.

GPs on Twitter responded to Sir John’s claims, with Sheffield GP trainer Dr Alan Shirley agreeing that this was a wider problem than one or two reported cases, writing: ‘More than one person [has said it]. But unusual for it to be said so overtly nowadays? Needs challenge!’

RCGP chair Maureen Baker told delegates at the RCGP conference last year that the college had had meetings with medical school heads to discuss the ‘toxic anti-GP’ culture, but these latest cases appear to have continued into the current year’s student intake.

Sir John told Pulse that the example he had heard took place in September, at the start of the academic year.

He said: ‘While this was an overt example, my worry is that in more subtle ways the next generation of doctors are getting messages that general practice is a second class element of the profession.’

He added: ‘I’m not in medical education, but I know that this is not isolated and should you look at the percentage of graduates from different medical schools that go into general practice, there’s variation.’

Part of NHS England’s plan to boost recruitment involves an advertising campaign, including a letter to newly qualified doctors, setting out the benefits of a general practice career.

Dr Vautrey told Pulse that the NHS must begin talking up general practice and encouraging it as a career choice for the best and brightest students.

He said: ‘It is completely unacceptable for anyone in a leadership positions within medical schools to express views like this which can be very damaging and it is something all medical schools must seriously and urgently address.’

A spokesperson for the Medical Schools Council told Pulse: ‘The Medical Schools Council is committed to producing graduates who are passionate for all aspects of medical care. The importance of GPs to the current and future NHS is strongly felt by the Council and ongoing discussion with the RCGP on how to address this has resulted in plans to work together in promoting general practice within medical schools.’

‘This planning is in its preliminary stages but the commitment is there from the medical schools to articulate the importance of general practice and other less popular specialties to their students, and the Medical Schools Council is keen to facilitate this.’

All the main political parties have said they intend to boost the number of GPs by as much as 8,000 next parliament.

If you have heard of any examples of general practice being devalued in medical schools, please contact us at and we will forward concerns to the Medical Schools Council

Readers' comments (81)

  • At n open day at a respoected Medical Sshool yesterday prospective students were told that over 50% of all of them would be likely to end up in General Practice but this was said as a positive statement and was in no way made to sound a 'second class' career option.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In other news - at the plumbers, mechanics and heating engineers course the boss said 'If you don't work hard enough you may fail and have to go and retrain to be a GP'.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I do not blame the medical schools for this, and those who focus on variation are reductionist fools.
    If GP was the best job, then oxbridge students would fight to get into it.
    Create a climate that rewards good general practice and the doctors will choose it.
    Personally I only think this will happen is when GPs are paid by their patients, not the NHS.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The medical schools who do this should have their funding removed. Pure and simple. They are there to provide doctors that the country needs - not to satisfy their own bloated sense of self importance. A recent report revealed minimal GP representation on the Medical Schools Council- this clearly needs to now change . The GMC should be dealing with them..

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Wow @09:56! Do you really think universities should exist to service the propaganda of the state? That young people should not be fed views in opposition to the aims of the dear leaders? Are their minds to impressionable to the Wrong Message?

    Medical schools are there to teach medicine, and should be diverse in their teaching and views. What the NHS does with those who chose to enter it from UK medical schools is nothing to do with them.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I don't think you can blame the deans for speaking the truth.............

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If they are discouraging youngsters from general practice, I would say that in today's climate of blizzards and turmoil in primary care, they are just being honest.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There is absolutely no truth in that. Success is not measured by one's specialty. As a " doctor" who have passed my MRCP and my MRCS , I then went on to follow a career in GP. It is about defining what a doctor really is. I find GP a more satisfying job for me than being a technician repairing hernias and lap choles for the rest of my life being micromanaged by hospital managers :). We have the potential to have a massive impact on people/s lives just as surgeons, pathologists and medics can. Yes you can be super specialised, but that may be your career aim and your drive. belittling others is a sign of weakness

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • That's Ok The will miss us when we're gone !!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I had a very similar statement on day 1 of medical school, and stupidly I still chose to become a GP.

    They shouldn't be saying that being a GP is a failure.
    They should be saying that being a GP is crap.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say