RCGP Scotland is calling for four-year training to include a focus on rural general practice to solve the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in such areas.
In a new report, the college has suggested solutions to the problem could include foundation-year experience of rural GP practice to become part of GP training, an ‘exchange programme’ for trainees to switch between rural and urban practices, placing GP training facilities in rural areas as well as actively recruiting candidates who come from a rural background.
RCGP Scotland said its calls for a renewed campaign for GPs to choose rural practice comes as a spate of recent recruitment attempts by local health boards have failed, including an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde campaign to attract GPs to the Isle of Cumbrae, as well as a recent unsuccessful campaign in West Lochaber.
Arguing that rural practice takes special skills preparation because it is often a more challenging career, the college’s report said: ‘GP training is currently shorter than all other UK medical or surgical specialities, and less than half the duration of some of the specialities, but while the length of training has stayed the same, general practice continues to evolve.’
‘General practice in all geographical settings is facing the dual challenge of an ageing population with complex, multiple co-morbidities. The structural changes that the NHS is undergoing will demand much more of your average GP in terms of clinical, managerial and leadership skills. More and more patients will be treated outside of hospital, in their homes and communities.’
‘RCGP recommended in 2012 enhanced and extended training for general practice. Central to this is a minimum training time in all general practice programmes of four years with at least 24 months spent in primary care.’
The Scottish Government and GPC have announced that they will be negotiating a new GMS contract for Scotland that should better take into account the specific challenges of rural general practice to take effect from 2017/18.
The RCGP has been calling for GP training to be extended from three to four years since 2012, however as Pulse could reveal in February the UK Government has said that it will not be making a call on proposals until 2015.