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Dr Maureen Baker: Medical schools have a responsibility to ‘big up’ general practice

Being a GP is one of the most rewarding, interesting and diverse jobs in the world – and medical schools have a responsibility to ‘big up’ general practice to ensure that we are attracting sufficient numbers and that we do not lose out to other medical specialties.

We need vibrant marketing campaigns to show medical students what a fulfilling and intellectually stimulating career choice general practice really is.

Our 2015 election manifesto also calls for financial incentives, effectively a ‘teach first’ scheme for the NHS, to encourage medical graduates to train as GPs and then practise in areas that currently do not have enough family doctors but where patients need us most.

General practice is currently grappling with unprecedented workload and workforce pressures. We are making 340 million patient consultations a year – 40 million more than five years ago – and there is no doubt that some medical students are being put off from entering the profession because they hear about GPs working longer hours and seeing more and more patients to try and meet demand.

We urgently need increased funding and at least 10,000 more GPs by 2020. But the tide does seem to be turning, as demonstrated by the positive proposals for the future of general practice announced by NHS England last week.

There is an expectation that support for general practice will be materially better within a few years and medical schools should be working with students to ensure they are aware of the opportunities and challenges of a career as a GP.

Being a GP is certainly the most varied job in medicine. We are carrying out treatments in general practice that 10 years ago would have been immediately referred to a hospital physician and as more care is shifted from hospitals to primary care, we believe it is the best job in medicine for the 21st century.

General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS and it is imperative that all those working in medical education do their duty to promote being a GP as the first choice for medical students, for the sake of our patients and for the future sustainability of the NHS.

Dr Maureen Baker is chair of the RCGP