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Gerada: Four-year training will be ‘cost-neutral’

Exclusive: RCGP proposals to extend GP training to four years approved by the Medical Programme Board last week will not cost the NHS extra money, chair Dr Clare Gerada has said.

Dr Gerada hailed a ‘momentous day for general practice' after the college cleared the first major hurdle to securing extended training in England when the board unanimously backed its educational case.

The news was warmly received by the profession, although there were immediate questions over how it would be funded.

Plans for four-year training still need formal sign-off from Medical Education England and the Treasury, but Dr Gerada said she was optimistic the first four-year trainees would start in 2014.

Yet concerns remain that the plans may hinge on contentious proposals by the Committee of GP Education Directors (COGPED), revealed in Pulse last week, to charge out the time of fourth-year trainees under a national tariff.

A motion tabled by Hull and East Yorkshire LMC for next month's annual LMCs conference ‘rejects' COGPED's four-year training plans and warns they risk creating an ‘underclass' of GPs.

Dr Gerada conceded the plans would need to be ‘cost-neutral', but would not be drawn on whether the college backed the COGPED plans, adding funding would need to be thrashed out between COGPED and the BMA.

‘Trainees are not going to be cheap labour,' she said. ‘It's our job to concentrate on the educational case. [The plans] have to be cost-neutral, that was the deal – and I'm optimistic we can achieve this.'

The college's proposals have yet to receive sign-off by education boards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but Dr Gerada said she was hopeful of this within the next few weeks.

Dr Clare Taylor, a GP in Birmingham and fellow of the RCGP's First Five scheme, welcomed last week's ruling: ‘Having the shortest training of any specialty has always seemed paradoxical.'

Dr Saqib Anwar, a GP in Leicester, said the plans were ‘an absolute necessity', but added: ‘Affordability is likely to be the sticking point.'

And Dr Mary Church, a GP in Glasgow and chair of the LMCs conference, said: ‘Did the programme board suggest how extended training will be funded?'


The main players

  • RCGP - Proposed educational case, now accepted by Medical Programme Board
  • Medical Education England - Must rubber-stamp educational case before it goes to Treasury
  • COGPED - Supports national tariff for service provision by fourth-year trainees
  • BMA - Wants assurances on funding, and that trainees' educational time will be protected