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Medical students exposed to general practice via video link

University of Aberdeen School of Medicine and Dentistry is hoping to attract more students into general practice by live-streaming consultations as part of first year teaching.

Dr John McKeown, a GP and clinical lecturer, who developed the GP Live system said the feedback from students who normally would have to wait until the fourth year to see a GP in action was ‘hugely positive’.

He said it had proved a very successful way to expose students to general practice at an early stage and they had really enjoyed seeing what was going to come up next, he said.

The RCGP has predicted a shortage of 830 GPs in Scotland by 2020 and a range of iniatives has been launched to try to fill more training places, including £20,000 golden handshakes.

Dr McKeown came up with the idea of live streaming after the university installed a state-of-the-art digital classroom with web conference tools.

The real benefit of the system was that with a teacher in the classroom, the students could ask lots of questions, for example about consultation skills, they would not feel comfortable doing if they were actually in the room with the GP, he said.

Dr McKeown plans to expand the system to use the technology to give students a taster of different types of general practice, for example working in a rural practice.

‘One of my theories is we have a lot of good role models out there in general practice and letting students see them at work, seeing a variety of patients and seeing them enjoying their job is really important,’ he said.

The students accessed the consultations, which were being done by another GP at his practice, on a YouTube-style interface and loved the unpredictability of it, said Dr McKeown.

Only two patients declined to take part and the video streaming was on a time delay for confidentiality reasons.

Dr McKeown said: ‘It is a really efficient use of resource, the GP is working anyway, the teacher is working anyway and you can have eight, nine, 10 or more students in the classroom.

‘By the time our current first-year students graduate there will be a pressing need for new GPs in Scotland, and this initiative is designed to show them what an appealing career it can be.’

It comes as the Department of Health has said medical schools that promote general practice could receive extra funding to expand places from 2019.