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GP promotional campaign focuses on signing skydiving consent form

A national promotional campaign to encourage medical students and junior doctors to enter general practice features a GP ticking a consent form for a patient to do a skydive. 

The campaign, devised by Health Education England, will declare that there ‘has never been a more exciting time to be a part of general practice’, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

The recruitment drive is one of the 10 initiatives in the plan for tackling the GP workforce crisis, jointly backed by NHS England, Health Education England (HEE), the RCGP and the GPC. 

It will be run on online and on social media channels in the lead-up to the opening of applications for 2016 GP training on 11 November.

The strapline of the campaign will be ‘Nothing general about general practice’, and it will enable graduates to get in touch with grassroots GP ambassadors for more information on the career.

A poster and video released by Health Education England features a cancer survivor skydiving after a GP signs their consent form, with the line: ‘You’re the one who helps them fulfil their dreams’.

Each week the social media campaign will look at another stage of the journey GPs go on with their patients.  

The GPC, which has contributed to the development of the scheme, says it could help achieve the much-needed boost in applications for GP training places in 2016/17, but added that the Government would have to address core issues in order provide a genuine solution to the recruitment crisis.

Professor Simon Gregory, HEE’s clinical lead for the campaign and a GP himself, told Pulse the new scheme would focus on the positives of general practice.

He said: ‘There are a whole load of issues that need addressing in general practice, and this isn’t going to solve everything. But this is about people understanding that it is a positive thing to do.’

Professor Gregory told Pulse that the relationship with patients ‘was the bit that people lose in the bean counting’.

He added: ‘Our idea is to show the uniqueness of caring for an individual in amongst the masses. The continuity of care, and the continuity of relationships, being there in the good times and the bad.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s education, training and workforce subcommittee, added: ‘It is important that we change perceptions of general practice and inspire the next generation of medical graduates to become GPs. We want to see an increase in the number of applications for GP training places for 2016/17.

’However, this campaign is only one part of a wider solution and the government has to address these core problems so that we can truly attract the GPs we need. Current proposals to cut GP trainee pay by removing the training supplement will hardly encourage new doctors into general practice and comes at a time when there were 600 trainee vacancies across the country this year.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘As the campaign says, there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of general practice – and I hope this will help to attract the GPs of tomorrow.’

The 10-point plan, launched at the start of 2015, was intended to improve recruitment of new trainees and to bring back those who had left the profession.

But several of the pledges – like increased numbers of GP support staff – were rehashed in Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’ for general practice as rewards in exchange for taking on seven-day working, and ultimately sparked a backlash, with the BMA saying it ‘threatened the existence of the profession’.

HEE has already been mandated to boost the number of students entering GP training to 3,250 by 2016, However, uptake has stagnated, with newly created training places unfilled.

And the recruitment crisis is particularly acute in already underdoctored areas like the East Midlands and North-East, where almost 50% of training places were unfilled at this year’s August intake.

This story was updated at 10am, to acknowledge that it was not GPs skydiving, but a patient who had been given a consent form by the GP