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Four-year GP training implementation set for delay

Exclusive The RCGP’s plan to implement four-year GP training next summer looks set to be delayed as ministers refuse to give a green light in time to prepare for the college’s proposed implementation date.

The Department of Health told Pulse that it would be setting out its final position for four-year training in 2015, after it had worked through the ‘complex issues’ with the devolved administrations and ‘other key stakeholders’.

This means the RCGP’s timetable for implementing extended training – with the first intake due in August 2015, as set out in a position paper last year – is set to be delayed.

But the GPC said that approval for extended GP training was needed ‘immediately’ as there was an urgent need to give trainees the skills to deal with modern general practice.

Pulse has learnt that the RCGP are waiting until there is an official response from ministers to the Shape of Medical Training report, commissioned by the GMC and the Royal colleges and released in October 2013.

This report advocated all doctors had specialty training of between four and six years, but Pulse has learnt that the DH will not respond to the report until 2015.

The announcement comes as the RCGP is to discuss the way forward for four-year GP training. A council paper, due to be discussed at a meeting tomorrow and seen by Pulse, revealed that the Medical Education UK Scrutiny Group – which has representation from the Government’s of the four UK nations – announced its support for four-year training at a meeting in November 2013.

But it also admitted that the process had been ‘halted’ as the college waited for the Government to respond to the Shape of Medical Training report.

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A DH spokesperson: ‘We will respond to the Shape of Medical Education and Training report next year, once we have had time to work through the complex issues with the devolved administrations and other key stakeholders. We will set out a clear position on extension to GP training in the response.’

A high level education source told Pulse: ‘This has been the stated position for the last few months. Politically I doubt there will be any commitment by the current UK Government prior to May 2015 or the Scottish devolved administration before September 2014 (then delayed again until the general election if there is a “no” vote).’

‘The RCGP has settled into developing the proposed curriculum and assessment framework for four years in preparation for any green light as the politics resolve.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC GP trainees subcommittee, said the original timetable ‘does not seem possible’.

He said: ‘Doctors in primary care will require the skills to deal with the changing demographics of society. Appropriate funding of enhanced GP training will go a long way in ensuring that the health needs of 21st century Britain are met appropriately. Although the Shape of Training review references enhanced GP training, the detail of how this will be implemented is still not entirely clear.

‘GPC strongly urges the Government to fund and deliver enhanced GP training as a matter of priority.  The original implementation date 2015 does not seem possible now and that is indeed disappointing. Enhanced GP training should not be put on the back burner when the vision is very clear. It needs funding and it needs it immediately.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said the time taken by the Goverment was ‘a concern.

He said: ‘I’d be interested to know why it would take same long to make a response when, particularly with respect to GP training, there is an urgent need to give trainees longer to acquire necessary skills to deal with modern general practice.’

‘There is a risk’ of missing the August 2015 target, he added. ‘It would make it that bit more difficult if the Government are not fully behind introducing it within the timescale identified.’

The RCGP said it would not comment on a council paper before its council meeting on Friday.

Please note, this was amended at 12:13 on 21 February to reflect that the Department of Health had not signed up to the RCGP’s timetable