Health Education England (HEE) has launched a pilot programme for training general internal medicine consultants, to take over the GP role in coordinating inpatient and outpatient care for patients with ‘multiple unrelated conditions’.
HEE said the new specialists in general internal medicine would also ‘reduce the need for referrals to different specialist teams – and relieve pressure on waiting lists for specialist procedures and clinics’.
It has launched pilot training programmes in three regions, with applications opening today.
The pilots create a new single accreditation in general internal medicine while, currently, higher specialty training in the area could only be taken as part of dual training with a group 1 specialty.
HEE said the need for the new specialty came as a number of hospitals started re-opening general internal medicine departments – which had been a common feature until the 1980s.
The general internal medicine consultants will:
- be an expert in managing a broad range of acute illnesses and treating common conditions;
- playing a key role in diagnosis of people with unusual or complex conditions; and
- facilitating care when multiple specialist teams are involved.
Examples of their tasks would include ‘looking after inpatients with multiple conditions and on many different types of medication, to provide holistic person-centred care for all their conditions’, HEE said.
They could also provide support for outpatients with apparently vague symptoms such as weight loss and pain that might indicate serious conditions such as cancer, who do not fit into traditional cancer pathways.
Dr Phil Bright, clinical advisor for internal medicine training at HEE, said that since hospital consultants ‘began to focus on the delivery of specialist care’ from the 1980s, ‘GPs have been left trying to co-ordinate care for an individual patient across multiple specialty teams’.
‘This is now becoming increasingly challenging as medical care develops.’
According to Dr Bright, general internal medicine will be ‘an important part of the future of physician care’, with the pilots offering ‘an exciting opportunity’.
‘Patients’ demographics are changing, with a greater focus on older people and those with multiple co-morbidities, so physician care needs to evolve too. The opening of these training programmes is a crucial step in that process,’ he said.
Last year, NHS England said that secondary care providers must be ‘held to account’ to eliminate unnecessary workload dumping on practices, such as blood tests and prescribing.
Pilot programme locations
- University Hospital, Southampton
- Queen Alexander Hospital, Portsmouth
- St Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight
- University Hospital, Birmingham
- University Hospital, Coventry & Warwickshire
- The Royal Shrewsbury & Telford NHS Trust
- The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust
- University Hospitals of Leicester
Applications close on August 16 with trainees starting in post in late 2022 or early 2023.
11 August 2022
11 August 2022