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HEE to push for five-year GP training pilots in every deanery area

Exclusive Every deanery area should run a pilot for five-year GP specialty training, Health Education England’s head of primary care has told Pulse in an exclusive interview.

Professor Simon Gregory, HEE’s deputy medical director of primary and integrated care, said he would ‘ideally’ like to set up a five-year training pilot in every deanery area following the pilot set to be trialled in Tower Hamlets.

This will include the current three-year training but will be solely in general practice, and trainees will ‘automatically’ be enrolled in a two-year fellowship at the end of it.

The RCGP has been pushing for extended GP training for years, but has previously been knocked back in its attempts to extend training to four years. 

However, Professor Gregory told Pulse that he plans to rollout extended training. He said: ‘Our plan is to have 13 or 14 pilots. Ideally, I’d like one in every deanery area, I’m having discussions on those at the moment. This is really exciting.’

He added: ‘Why do you train people for 18 months in a hospital?  Often, they’re not even learning much about general practice, they’re providing service in the hospital, but that’s the way it’s currently funded.’

Health Education England splits into 13 regions for specialty training.

Professor Gregory said that spending five years in one area allows more likelihood for trainees to ‘fall in love’ with the area and ‘have an affinity’ for it.

He also said the extended training is advantageous to the area as trainees can ‘adapt’ to the needs of the local population.

He said: ‘These days people go into medicine but by the time they’ve qualified, they’re often in relationships. They don’t want to be moving around the country. The chance of a job that’s five years long in one area, that means that you can take out rent and not have to move every six months like my daughters had to do.

‘It wins for the doctor themselves, but it wins for the area. If we take that one in Tower Hamlets, that means they can adapt the training programme to what Tower Hamlets needs but also I think if people are there for five years, they’re more likely to fall in love with the area and have an affinity for it.’

He continued: ‘There’s going to be seven people starting next year in FY2 [in Tower Hamlets]. They’re going to do a year of FY2 in the community. They’ll do three years of GP training and then the fellowships automatically at the end of it.’

NHS England recently announced the rollout of voluntary two-year fellowships for newly qualified GPs by March 2020.

NHS Tower Hamlets CCG chair Sir Sam Everington said: ‘In some ways, I’m not surprised because the feedback I’ve got from so many people is “we want it here too”.

‘There’s a whole raft of rationale behind it. There’s recruitment and retention, which is key, but also the strength of the training. We think this will greatly improve the training the doctors get because of the continuity.’

Sir Sam said there is no fixed idea of how many trainees will join the pilot until they advertise.

He said: ‘It’s going to go ahead, but we’re not quite sure when it’s going to start, probably February or August next year. There are still some things to be sorted out. There’s lots of enthusiasm to get started as soon as possible but there are practical things – but we’re racing ahead.

‘We don’t know how many there will be until we go out and advertise. But certainly, wherever I’ve been speaking, there’s a lot of interest from trainees.

‘There’s a massive attraction of being in one place for five years, so you don’t need to be moving every four to six months. And secondly, you get the continuity of – I would call it – being with a family for five years.’