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Former RCGP chair calls for GP training to be extended to five years

Former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada has called for GP training to be extended to five years, to allow trainees to be sufficiently prepared for the modern-day NHS.

She said this comes as a growing number of newly-qualified GPs will find themselves going straight into unsupported locum roles, as the model of general practice evolves and young GPs are less likely to put down roots in one GP practice and stay there.

In order for new GPs to have sufficient clinical confidence, Professor Gerada argued that at least 12 months of these extra two years of training should be spent doing clinical work, while the remainder could be spent ‘experimenting’ with things like portfolio careers and leadership training.

Professor Gerada, who remains an RCGP Council member but stressed that this was her position rather than that of the college, told Pulse: ‘The additional two years can be a mix of management, leadership and clinical experience. It’s a chance to experiment.

‘But I would say at least 12 months needs to be clinical work, in any speciality.’

Professor Gerada, who was chair when the college won support for plans to extend the current three-year training to a four-year curriculum, said this comes as future GPs ‘will have to be trained to adapt to changing expectations’.

She added: ‘My view is that confidence comes from time working and this can’t be hurried. Three years might make you competent, but confident.’

Commenting on the suggestion, current RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said it remains the college’s view that ‘at least four years’ training is going to be needed in future to prepare our trainees for the rigours and new challenges of general practice as it changes and evolves, and to work within new models of care’.

But she added that any move delaying GPs coming into the workforce would need to be balanced against the fact that the NHS is ‘grappling with a severe shortage of GPs and are struggling to recruit sufficient numbers of medical students to GP training as it stands’.

She also stressed that ‘current newly-qualified GPs are excellent, thanks to the high quality postgraduate training they receive’.

She said this comes ‘particularly from their general practice placements where all aspects of core general practice are taught, and our robust MRCGP assessment that ensures they are safe to practise independently as highly competent GPs’.

Although the RCGP was successful in its campaign to persuade education bosses of the merits of four-year training in 2012 – with hopes of a 2015 start date – the plans have not come to fruition.

After an initial delay, the Department of Health was due to formally respond to proposals in 2015 but instead health secretary Jeremy Hunt indicated to MPs that implementing four-year training was incompatiple with his pledge to have 5,000 more GPs in England by 2020.