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Promote general practice and receive extra funding, medical schools told

Medical schools which aim to boost GP trainee uptake by exposing students to general practice could see extra funding, under Government plans outlined today.

A consultation on DH proposals to boost medical schools places by a quarter also reiterates plans announced in October for medical students to be pledged to the NHS for a set time period – or be forced to pay the NHS back for their training.

The DH also wants more of the extra investment, which will add 1,500 new medical schools placed by 2020, to go towards medical schools in areas with doctor shortages.

The consultation also proposes:

  • that universities will no longer be limited on the number of international medical students they can recruit;
  • that from the academic year 2018/19, new international students will need to fund their own clinical placements, in addition to the tuition and living costs they pay currently. 

The DH adds that it believes that ‘giving students additional exposure to high quality placements in general practice and specialties that experience recruitment difficulties will improve recruitment into these specialties’.

The document says: ’We therefore propose that the allocation criteria should incentivise universities, working with HEE and placement providers, to support general practice and shortage specialties to attract doctors.

It adds: ‘The allocation criteria should incentivise universities, working with HEE and placement providers, to deliver education and placements in geographical areas that experience recruitment difficulties and to attract students who reside in these areas prior to applying to medical school’.

The DH says this comes as research shows ‘graduates are more likely to consider a career in these areas if they go to university there and have an enjoyable and rewarding student experience’.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proposed changes were aimed at ensuring NHS is able to meet ‘challenges ahead’ amid expected global doctor shortages. 

He added: ‘That is why we have taken the decision to increase our supply of home grown doctors by up to 1,500 places each year, in addition to the 6,000 places currently available in England.

‘This 25% increase is the biggest such increase in the history of the NHS. It will ensure that the NHS is equipped to care for a growing and ageing population with far more complex conditions.

‘By widening participation and providing more opportunities for people from all backgrounds to study medicine, intelligent and motivated people will no longer be turned away by medical schools and forced to do other degrees, while the NHS ends up short of home grown doctors.’

HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cummings said: ‘This major investment in undergraduate places is very welcome. The 25% increase in places is a clear commitment to a sustainable future home-grown medical workforce, making us self-sufficient in doctors for years to come, giving more young people from diverse backgrounds the chance to become a doctor.

‘These extra places also give us the opportunity, with partners across health and education, to respond to NHS need, providing doctors in the specialties and places that patients need long into the future.’

HEE revealed last week that the number of trainees opting to enter general practice has increased by almost 5% on last year’s figures, representing the most positive news around GP training over the past few years.

Improving uptake of GP training places

Last year a study led by a senior NHS England advisor and the RCGP proposed that medical school funding should be linked to ‘producing GPs’.

This followed several studies, most recently in the BJGP last month, that have demonstrated the link between exposure to high quality GP placements in medical school and doctors opting to enter GP training.

A major national taskforce in 2013 also argued that the UK’s most established medical schools, in Oxford, Cambridge, and London were not doing enough to produce GPs.

The RCGP has campaigned against the ‘toxic anti-GP culture’ in some of these institutions, with Pulse reporting that medical school deans had warned medical school intakes not to ‘fail and become GPs.’