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GPs fulfill role of ‘local priests’ in community

GPs fulfil the role once taken by ‘local priests' by providing support to their communities beyond healthcare, according to a new report commissioned by the RCGP.

The report, by an Independent Commission established by the RCGP and the Health Foundation, recommends GPs help with patients' social as well as medical needs and calls for them to have a ‘continuity of responsibility' for registered patients seven days a week.

The report states: ‘Making health needs assessments, addressing health inequalities and commissioning services are key components. But so is being known in the community. In some ways, the generalist can be seen as fulfilling for many people the role a local priest would have occupied in former years.'

But the report warns the future of generalism depends on ‘coming generations of doctors being trained in its techniques' and recommends making GP training compulsory for all medical graduates during the two-year foundation programme.

The commission also recommends expanding specialist training for GPs from three years to five to put GPs on ‘an equal footing with specialists', with extra training in paediatrics and mental health.

Baroness Finlay, the commission's chair, said: ‘We recommend expanding training time for new recruits and that training in generalism be a core requirement for specialists.'

Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, said: ‘As a profession we have unique skills in providing continuity, managing patients across physical, psychological and social needs and acting as navigators of care. We must make sure other health professionals are able to support us.'

The RCGP will publish a detailed response next year.