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Health minister rejects request for compulsory GP training placement

The government will not commit to ensuring 100% of trainee doctors receive at least one placement in general practice as part of their foundation training, health minister Dr Daniel Poulter has said.

Responding to a ministerial question from fellow Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie, who asked if the secretary of state for health ‘will instruct Health Education England to make a placement in general practice compulsory for all F1 and F2 trainee doctors.’

Dr Poulter said:  ‘No.’

He added: ‘In England, all foundation schools are expected to work with Health Education England by way of meeting the recommendations set out in Broadening the Foundation Programme’, including that at least 80% of foundation doctors should undertake a community or integrated placement from August 2015.’

The Broadening the Foundation Programme guidance, released earlier this year by HEE, also recommends that all foundation doctors ‘undertake a community placement or an integrated placement from August 2017’

Chair of the GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told Pulse that Dr Poulter’s comments were ‘disappointing’ and that an experience working in general practice at foundation level would help hospital doctors understand holistic patient care and improve communication with GPs.

He said: ‘It is very, very disappointing for someone to say, blank “no” to that without thinking how much there is to gain by it.’

‘Because all GP trainees have time in hospitals, and they have a rough idea of how things work. But hospital trainees don’t spend time in general practice, and … what it will help with, is for them to understand where the patients come from, and how are they managed in primary care.’

‘You can look at that holistic care approach and use that to communicate with GPs, what you can ask the GP to do and what you can do yourself.’

Dr Kasaraneni added that community placements in other settings, like urgent care, were not a substitute either and should also include some exposure to general practice.

He said: ‘As a doctor in foundation placement some taster time, not a full placement, in general practice will be very valuable for the NHS, the individual trainees, and most importantly for the patients.’

The GP taskforce report recommended that the proportion of general practice posts in foundation programmes should be increased, ‘ensuring that 100% of foundation doctors have exposure to general practice or community based experience’. And the GPC recently annouced they would campaign for fair funding for GP placements in undergraduate training.