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GPs told they must have ‘active’ RCGP membership to become a trainer

Exclusive Some deaneries in England are insisting that GPs must have an ‘active’ RCGP membership to become a trainer, despite membership not being a legal requirement. 

Health Education England told Pulse it ‘expects’ GPs to be members of the RCGP if they want to become a trainer.  

A number of deaneries operating under HEE, insist on GPs being RCGP members as an essential requirement in order to access training resources.

However, the RCGP has said membership is not necessary to meet the criteria of being a GP trainer. 

GP trainers said the requirement was ‘absurd’. 

The London and South East Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education website – which includes four deaneries – says under the approvals criteria that to become an education supervisor or clinical supervisor, the GP must be able to demonstrate that ‘they are members of the Royal College of General Practitioners’.

The North West Postgraduate Medicine and Dentistry website also requires RCGP membership, and says: ‘The GP trainer will be a member of the RCGP in good standing.’

A spokesperson for Health Education England, which provides GP training and training for GP educators in England, said it ‘expects’ new trainers to be RCGP members.

The HEE spokesperson told Pulse: ‘Health Education England provides guidance on the skills and competencies required to become a GP trainer.

‘Our GP schools expect new trainers to have an active membership of Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), we encourage continued membership, so trainers have access to the resources available to support doctors in GP specialty training.

‘We believe trainers will find membership useful and we will work with the RCGP to ensure that trainers’ needs are met.’

However, a spokesperson for the RCGP said: ‘GPs don’t need to be a member of RCGP before becoming a GP trainer.’

GP survival founder Dr Alan Woodall, who is a GP trainer in Wales, told Pulse: ‘In today’s world, medical education policy should be evidence-based. One must ask those regions which state remaining a member of the RCGP is essential to be a GP trainer what evidence they are basing this decision on, and if the training outcomes vary for trainees depending on the current membership status of the trainer. I am not aware of any peer-reviewed study which supports such an assertion.’

Dr Kamal Sidhu, a GP trainer in Blackhall, Country Durham said the situation is ‘absurd’.

He said: ‘I find it absurd that the membership is being suggested to be mandatory.

‘Locally, we fortunately have the freedom to not be a member of RCGP and it does not affect our ability to train in any way. The deaneries and the training schemes provide all that is necessary to keep up to date on all aspects of training. To make the RCGP membership mandatory will only create another barrier and an unnecessary financial burden.’

In Wales, the deanery previously required GPs to have membership ‘in good standing of the RCGP’, but recently reviewed their approach.

Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) medical director Professor Push Mangat said: ‘We are committed to ensuring trainees receive the best training possible and trainers have all they need to deliver high-quality training. On receiving feedback from colleagues, early last week we reviewed our approach regarding membership in good standing of the RCGP at the time of application to be a trainer.

‘Following discussions, we agreed it is desirable for prospective and current trainers to be members of RCGP, but not essential. The reason for it being desirable is because we recognise that for those with an interest in education and development it is a valuable resource to support their training role.

‘We have contacted GP practices directly to make them aware of this change and assure them applications will not be treated any less favourably if membership of the RCGP is not held.’

In Northern Ireland, a spokesperson from the Department of Health said: ‘GP trainers do not have to be members of the RCGP, but it is recommended.’

Meanwhile in Scotland, a spokesperson for NHS Education for Scotland told Pulse they are informed that prospective GP trainers ‘must have achieved the MRCGP but do not have to maintain their membership.’ 

BMA GP committee policy lead for education, training and workforce Dr Samira Anane said: ‘At a time when we are trying to recruit and retain more GPs, it seems counterintuitive to put additional barriers in the way for those valuable, experienced doctors who want to share their expertise with the next generation. While trainers can access support from a range of organisations, they should not be over-burdened with such prescriptive mandatory requirements.’

Last year, a GMC survey found that GP trainers were working harder than trainers in other medical specialties, and were potentially putting their health and wellbeing at risk from overwork.