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Three-quarters of medical students encounter negativity towards GPs, says RCGP

More than three quarters of medical students report having heard negative comments about general practice from their trainers by their final year at university, an RCGP report has found.

An RCGP survey found that of those students, 70% heard the derogatory comments about general practice while on clinical placements, with 37% heard them at medical school.

The college has called for universities to support GP societies and for additional funding for practices that host medical undergraduates.

This follows calls last year to end stigmatising ‘banter’ in medical schools, which was claimed to be contributing to the shortfall of GPs.

The negative comments about general practice included complaints about inappropriate referrals, the suggestion that GPs are lower in status to other medical professionals and claims that the profession is ‘undemanding’.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard described these comments as ‘archaic’, adding that the perceptions ‘need to change, and fast’.

She said: ‘It’s so frustrating because being a GP can be the best job in the world when we are given the time and resources to do it properly – it is challenging, intellectually stimulating and full of variety.

‘These are the messages we need to convey. GPs are very important ambassadors for this, and we all have a crucial role to play in influencing the perceptions of medical students, and our peers across medicine.’

Professor Stokes-Lampard has previously warned GPs against making negative comments about the general practice profession in front of trainees, saying it is ‘destructive and unhelpful’.

The survey of 3,680 medical students from 30 medical schools also found that:

  • 91% of those surveyed felt their fellow students had negative attitudes towards general practice;
  • 54% perceived doctors they have encountered on placements in non-GP specialties to be negative about general practice;
  • 72% reported a perceived negativity from the current political environment;
  • By the end of their third year, 84% of students believe that doctors and staff on placements have a negative attitude towards general practice.

The report recommends additional funding for ‘practices hosting undergraduate placements, to ensure that the full teaching costs are covered, so that GPs have the time and resources to provide the highest quality teaching placements’.

Dr Sophie Lanaghan, chair of the RCGP associates in training committee, added: ‘I’m saddened that so many students and junior doctors are being put off a career in general practice, as demonstrated in this report, and feel that any narrow-minded views that do exist need to be challenged to combat how this is affecting our profession, and the care we are able to deliver to patients.’

Recent research has urged the NHS to address the undermining of general practice within the medical workforce so that trainees are not put off a career in GP.