Only two of the 33 representatives on the Medical Schools Council are GPs, a new study has found, leading to calls for medical education to be given an ‘obliterative’ overhaul.
Writing in the BMJ today, Richard Wakeford, a fellow at the University of Cambridge, reviewed the websites of the UKs 33 publicly funded medical schools, and found only one – Brighton and Sussex – mentioned general practice in detail.
He argues that academics are ‘conflicted’ between their responsibility to deliver appropriate specialisms for the NHS and their own disciplines, and the small number of GPs on the council leaves general practice education at a disadvantage.
This is the latest in a growing number of voices speaking out against the culture in medical education, following reports in Pulse earlier this month that the GPC announced a campaign to get equitable funding for GP undergraduate education, and the RCGP is in meetings to address the ‘toxic’ anti GP culture in UK universities.
It comes as the GP training crisis has seen 13% of GP training places nationally remained unfilled with only 70% fill rates in some parts of the country, despite an unprecedented third round of recruitment.
In his article Mr Wakeford writes: ‘Of 33 members representing undergraduate medical schools just two are GPs, the rest mostly clinician scientists.
‘These people are conflicted: they are responsible for delivering appropriate medical graduates to the NHS, but they also have responsibilities (and loyalty) to their own — largely hospital specialist – disciplines and colleges.
He adds: ‘Without a complete reorganisation of student recruitment, patients will be left badly served by medical schools that will continue to produce too many graduates inclined to hospital specialties and research.
‘Medical schools must act, and the Medical Schools Council’s membership requires obliterative change.’
Commenting on the report, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey: ‘As this study highlights, we are facing a serious shortfall in the number of GPs entering the medical workforce that requires urgent action to resolve.’
‘Medical schools do need to play a role in addressing this mounting crisis. In recent years, there has been evidence that medical student’s exposure to general practice has been declining.’
He added: ‘We do need policymakers to undertake a sustained period of investment in general practice … This must include providing medical schools with the resources to encourage more medical students to opt for general practice as a career’.
Professor Iain Cameron, MSC chair told Pulse: ‘Planning for future demands of the medical workforce is central to the Medical Schools Council’s work.’
He added ‘Tomorrow’s Doctors equally requires a broad base of knowledge in graduates upon which they can later build to make decisions about their careers. It is not MSC’s role as educators to encourage students down certain paths at a younger age, when the experiences upon which these sorts of career decisions are made often come after graduation.
‘MSC will continue to work with colleagues across the health and higher education sectors to select the best students to study medicine and equip them to provide the highest quality patient care in keeping with the present and future needs of the workforce.’
The Department of Health has tasked Health Education England, which funds medical education, with ensuring that 50% of trainees choose general practice as a specialism by 2016 – a deadline which has already been postponed once.