Medical training to become more flexible in major overhaul

  • Date: 21 April 2017

A MAJOR overhaul of medical training will aim to make it more flexible and less “fixated with time and tick boxes”, the General Medical Council has announced.

A review of training was undertaken by the regulator at the request of health secretary Jeremy Hunt following the 2016 contract dispute.

The GMC said it was told by patients, doctors and employers that the current approach to training is “out of date and in urgent need of reform.” Chief executive Charlie Massey pledged to implement change, saying: “If postgraduate training in the UK looks the same in five years’ time, then we will have failed trainees and we will have failed patients.”

The regulator’s new report, Adapting for the future, identified five problems it said made training rigid and slow to adapt and proposed a seven-point plan geared to delivering more flexible training by 2020.

The five key problems include difficulties in doctors transferring between specialties; lack of recognition for other training such as overseas work; and rigid training structures which exacerbate rota gaps.

The plan to improve training states:

  • Training will be organised by outcomes rather than time spent in training.
  • Related specialties curricula will share common outcomes and elements.
  • The GMC will reduce the burden of its approval system so that medical colleges and faculties can make changes to postgraduate curricula more quickly.
  • The GMC will work with others to promote mechanisms which already exist to help trainees change training programmes – such as the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ Accreditation of Transferable Competences Framework.
  • The GMC will ask the UK government to make the law less restrictive so that it can be more agile in approving training.
  • The GMC will support doctors with specific capabilities or needs.
  • The GMC will encourage national education bodies to continue to improve the work-life balance of trainees.

The GMC, which has overseen postgraduate training across the UK since 2010, will require training to focus more on the generic professional capabilities common to all doctors. Medical specialties will be asked to work together to identify aspects of their training that are common across related areas of practice, enabling doctors to switch specialties more easily.

Charlie Massey said: “The way that medical training has developed in the last 30 years has contributed to the low morale that doctors in training continue to experience.

“The actions that we set out in our report can make a meaningful difference to the professional lives of doctors and the choices they make about their careers. But ultimately it is patients who will benefit the most from these changes.”

The GMC said it will now work with the Academy, the medical colleges and faculties, the national education bodies, and professional organisations of the four UK countries to develop the plans further.

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