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Med students call for better exposure to general practice

Medical students have called on Northern Ireland’s only medical school to turn over more teaching time to general practice to help address the country’s GP crisis and protect the NHS.

At the BMA’s annual student conference in London, delegates overwhelmingly voted to support a motion to increase exposure of medical students at Queen’s University Belfast to general practice.

Emer Gates from QUB GP Society, who proposed the motion, said more time needed to be allocated to general practice across all year groups to maximise interest and awareness of GP careers.

The conference heard that currently only a small proportion of medical student placement experience at the university is devoted to general practice.

Yet Northern Ireland is crying out for GPs with the only 6.10 GPs per 10,000 head of the population compared with 6.80 in England, 6.70 in Wales and 8.20 in Scotland.

The country is facing losing GPs from the health service amidst an unprecedented recruitment and funding crisis and the decision of the BMA to collect undated resignations from practices.

But ‘more exposure to general practice throughout medical school may help address the GP recruitment crisis in Northern Ireland’, the conference heard.

Speaking about the motion, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland medical students committee, Molly Kerr, said: ‘It’s important that medical students get the maximum possible exposure to all clinical specialties as part of their studies, which is why I welcome the support for this motion.

‘Northern Ireland is in the midst of a recruitment crisis in general practice. Giving medical students as much opportunity as possible to experience general practice at first hand should help to encourage more of them to choose to become a GP and safeguard the future of our health service.’