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RCGP and BMA ask Hunt to boost GP undergraduate training placement funding

The RCGP and BMA have written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding ‘fair’ funding for GP undergraduate training placements.

The parties want the Government to provide an additional £31m a year, bringing funding to the level that hospital placements already receive.

The RCGP said GP practices currently receive just £620 a week to host students on training placements, but the organisation estimates costs to be around £1,000 a week.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Many practices are struggling with unsustainably high workloads and gaps in their workforce, which has implications on the provision of safe, high-quality patient care.

‘Expecting these practices to train and inspire the next generation of GPs without sufficient funding to do so, is simply unviable, and will put our ability to expand the GP workforce at risk.’

In 2017 the RCGP reported that student participation in GP placements during medical school was a key influencer in selecting general practice as a specialty. The report, ‘Destination GP’, revealed that 91% of medical students thought fellow students to had negative perceptions of general practice.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Providing high quality training placements in general practice costs around the same as it does to place medical students in hospitals, so it should be funded at the same level, and actually it’s a modest amount of money we’re calling for when you consider that the GP workforce is in dire straits and there is widespread consensus that we need to be encouraging more medical trainees into general practice.’

‘Being a GP can be the best job in the world when we are given the time and resources to do it properly – it is challenging, intellectually stimulating and full of variety. These are the messages we need to convey – and offering high quality educational placements in general practice are the best opportunity for us to do this, but this takes resources and general practice is losing out, creating a vicious cycle.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The BMA remains concerned that the government’s plans to increase the number of GPs will not be realised until an end to the long-term underfunding of undergraduate placements is addressed to attract and secure the future GP workforce.

‘General practice is experiencing one of the most severe recruitment and retention crises in decades, with too few doctors choosing general practice as a career – it is therefore vital that the government urgently provides the necessary funds to enable practices to continue to train and therefore attract the next generation of GPs.

Dr Vautrey said that despite clear evidence of the impact of underfunding primary care placements, no changes have been made this year. He asked the health secretary for a ‘rapid review’ and requested his ‘personal intervention’ to ensure an agreed approach to increased and fair funding.

The demands come as Pulse revealed that vacancy rates in general practice have rocketed to 15.3%, with almost one in six roles unfilled. In 2017 Pulse learned that GP training budgets were being cut, with gold-standard mentoring and CPD development schemes being cut in a race to the bottom.