Growing the next generation of GPs

2 October 2020

GPs who are in undergraduate teaching practices in Scotland may be aware of the recommendations of the Scottish Government group set up in 2018 to enable more general practice based teaching for medical undergraduates.

This group was formed as a result of Scottish Funding Council’s provision that Scottish medical schools move towards having 25% of the undergraduate curriculum delivered in general practice - a challenging target.

Increasing undergraduate medical education in Scotland report

There were ten recommendations in the report on premises, digital access, strengthening the GP educator workforce and monitoring and evaluation, but the most immediately significant was an increase in the tariff for hosting a medical student in practice from £40 to £85 per session, effective from April 2020.

The group felt this large increase was necessary because the tariff had been static for a number of years and strong evidence suggested that general practices were effectively subsidising the cost of teaching medical students. 

The increase was enabled by presenting the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport with strong evidence of the need for this and of its likely effect in producing more GPs, which is of course a policy aim of Scottish Government. She then identified a further £2.5 million per annum in Additional Cost of Teaching (ACT) support for practices.

I had the privilege of chairing this group and would like to thank all the members who contributed to it, including past RCGP Scotland Chair Ken Lawton, Deputy Chair for RCGP Scotland, Alasdair Forbes, all the Scottish GP Heads of Teaching at Universities, Prof Amjad Khan for NES and representatives of the Scottish General Practitioners Committee of the BMA.

The group also included Prof. Rona Patey, Chair of the Scottish Deans’ group, Scottish Government colleagues from Health Workforce, Primary Care, Health and Care Analysis, Finance and Pharmacy, and I would like to stress how important their collaborative approach was to achieve a good outcome.

The important work of the separate NES ACT Primary Care Review Group gave us a basis in establishing the current costs of general practice teaching.

Driving forward recommendations

The next stage is ensuring that all of the recommendations are delivered within a reasonable timescale.

The Primary Care Directorate of Scottish Government has asked me to chair a delivery group for this to report to the Board for Academic Medicine and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport.

We had our first meeting last week, and RCGP Scotland was well represented by Alasdair Forbes, Deputy Chair (Policy).

One senior, non-GP educator said at the Board for Academic Medicine when endorsing the recommendations: "these changes can help to produce not just more GPs, but better doctors."

I fully agree with this, but delivering them will not be altogether straightforward. You are all only too well aware of how COVID-19 has affected every aspect of the job of general practice, including teaching, and we heard at our meeting of some of these difficulties.

However, the epidemic has also been a stimulus to generating and spreading innovation, and many of these developments may become established in education in the future. If you have suggestions for the Delivery Group, please do feed them in through Alasdair Forbes.

Interested in getting involved with undergraduate teaching?

Undergraduate teaching is stimulating and rewarding for both students and GPs! If you are interested in getting involved, please do get in touch with our colleagues at Scottish medical schools:

Post written by

Professor John Gillies, Chair of the Scottish Government's Increasing Undergraduate Education in Primary Care Delivery Group

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