Exclusive GPs are reporting that budget cuts are affecting training available for qualified GPs and trainees, leading to fears that education will be increasingly provided by drug companies who are trying to promote their products.
Pulse can reveal trainees are being enlisted to run training programmes for other trainees in one area of the country after the loss of dedicated education supervisors.
In another area, cuts in deanery budgets has led to a gold standard postgraduate training programme also being reduced from a full day to a half day, and a CPD course being cut, with GPs likely having instead to rely on courses being provided by pharmaceutical companies.
These are the first reported cuts since Pulse revealed Health Education England was facing a 30% budget squeeze and had been offering GP trainers voluntary redundancy.
But HEE emphasised only back-office operations and its own running costs budget were being cut, and it would protect commissioning undergraduate and postgraduate education, paying the salaries of doctors in training, and ongoing work developing CPD activities.
However, Pulse can reveal that a gold-standard training course in the south of England has been cut.
HEE has told Pulse that a 30-day course for GP trainees – which saw 20-30 GP trainees coming together throughout the year to help them prepare for exams, partnership or locuming – is being scaled back by almost half to bring it in line with courses being offered in other parts of the country.
Similarly, the Wessex deanery has completely removed funding for its five-day gold-standard CPD course.
Wessex LMC chair Dr Nigel Watson said of the course: ‘ You could take a week as study leave and have focused days, a neurology day, a rheumatology one. They were really popular and really good and that’s what the tutors will pull together and organise… That’s what’s stopping.’
He added that these courses ‘filled quite a good gap because the CCGs lay on education that’s specific to their agenda, and the pharmaceutical type education can be good quality but it can be focused on promoting their product.’
Dr Andrew Paterson, a Portsmouth GP and chair of local charity supporting postgraduate GP education, said these cuts were a double whammy for general practice.
He said: ‘We need adequate funding for these GPs both in training and after qualification to maintain the workforce and to enhance the retention and motivation of GPs.
‘If these cuts are maintained GP postgraduate education will be increasingly in the hands of … those often perusing a cost-led agenda, or by drug companies who have a clear commercial motivation.’
Pulse can also reveal that cuts in staffing is affecting training. Dr Shaba Nabi, a GP education supervisor in Bristol and a Pulse columnist, said her supervising team haven’t been allowed to replace one of their colleagues and have had to ‘get a third year trainee to supervise the first year training and run the group.’
It comes after HEE chief executive, Professor Ian Cummings, told delegates at Pulse Live in May that the cuts would come from ‘back-office functions’.
He said: ‘From actual GPs receiving training, we are not looking at targeting that funding at all.’
A HEE spokesperson said: ‘We are reducing our overall running costs by 30% and the money spent on running our education support by 30% by 2020. This is not about training places or the quality of training but about making changes to our organisational structure and reducing administration costs to ensure we divert all possible resources to the front line and patient care.
‘The Wessex GP Day Release course is a half day, in line with revised training rotations and this is similar to most Schools in England. This course is not designed for preparation for the AKT but teaches the GP curriculum alongside many other formal and informal teaching opportunities.’
They added that the deanery ‘believes these changes will not have an adverse impact on GP trainee education.’
The BMA’s Annual Representatives Meeting, which is to be held in Bournemouth next week, is to debate whether a motion demanding the Government ‘address the cuts immediately’ and guarantee support for trainees and trainers.