GP training to be extended to four years

GP training will be extended to four years after proposals put forward by the RCGP were given the green light by the Medical Programme Board.

The college set out its case to the board – part of Medical Education England – calling for a training programme to cover the breadth of general practice with “extra focus on the key clinical, generalist and leadership skills that the GPs of the future will require.”

Under the proposals, which were drawn up in partnership with the BMA’s General Practitioners’ Committee, the certificate of completion of training will be awarded at the end of year four.

The first four-year courses are expected to begin in 2014, according to RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada.

She said: “This is a momentous day, not just for general practice, but for the entire medical profession and, most importantly, for our patients. It is the beginning of a long road that will see general practice training evolve to meet the changes that are already taking place in our practices and communities.

“I want to reiterate what I have said before: this is not a criticism of current training, or of existing and recently-qualified trainees. It is recognition that the needs of our patients and the communities we serve are changing, and for us to be able to meet these changes head on, we must make these positive steps forward.

“GPs are facing the challenges of an ageing population, with multiple, complex co-morbidities, and our training needs to develop to reflect that. This fantastic first step will ensure the future-proofing of general practice for generations to come.”

It is still unclear if additional funding will be provided by the Department of Health to cover the costs of the extra year’s training. The RCGP had originally called for training to be extended to five years but the GPC said four years was a “pragmatic” decision due to the “financial situation”, adding that five years was the “ultimate aim”.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the BMA would press the government for extra funding to cover the cost of the extra year’s training. But he added that other specialties coped with extensions to training through deaneries finding extra resources.