Unfair training funding for general practice must be addressed, says RCGP

The RCGP has called on the health secretary to ensure training placements in general practices receive the same funding as training placements in hospitals

The Royal College of General Practitioners has warned that the persistent GP workforce crisis is being worsened yet further by the differences in the way GP undergrad training placements are funded, compared with hospital placements.

Due to this discrepancy, chair of the RCGP, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, has written to Jeremy Hunt calling for GPs and hospital-based medical students to receive the same funding.

Currently, GP practices receive on average £620 a week to host training placements – yet the true cost is estimated to be £1000. The funding is also 40% less than the average amount hospitals receive to host training placements, even though the actual costs are the same.

The RCGP is calling for at least £31m a year – taking into account the increase in medical school placements from next year – to rectify the issue.

GP workload continues to grow while NHS spending on general practice has dropped – on top of this, there are not nearly enough GPs to go around.

In her letter, Professor Stokes-Lampard writes:

“You recently expressed concerns, which I share, that we will not reach the target set out in the General Practice Forward View for an additional 5,000 GPs by 2020; and, given the challenges of retaining GPs in the workforce, I am sure that you will agree it is even more vital that we attract more trainees into the profession. Ensuring that all students have access to properly funded placements in general practice is an essential part of this.

“Many practices are struggling with unsustainably high workloads and gaps in their workforce, which has implications on the provision of safe, high-quality patient care. Expecting these practices to train and inspire the next generation of GPs without sufficient funding to do so, is simply unviable, and will put our ability to expand the GP workforce at risk.

“The underfunding of training in primary care is not limited to the future GP workforce. For example, the low tariff available for undergraduate student nurse placements is also hampering efforts to increase the pipeline of nurses to enter the general practice workforce.

“The government’s welcome announcement of additional funds for the NHS and its intention to develop an NHS plan provides an opportune moment to remedy this longstanding and urgent funding deficit.”

Stokes-Lampard continued:

“Providing high-quality training placements in general practice costs around the same as it does to place medical students in hospitals, so it should be funded at the same level, and actually it’s a modest amount of money we’re calling for when you consider that the GP workforce is in dire straits and there is widespread consensus that we need to be encouraging more medical trainees into general practice.

“It’s critical that additional investment [announced recently by Theresa May] is used to ensure a robust general practice service for the future, so that we don’t even need to consider charging patients for their care, and our service can continue to be the sustainable foundation on which the NHS is built. Building our workforce is central to this ambition.

“Being a GP can be the best job in the world when we are given the time and resources to do it properly – it is challenging, intellectually stimulating and full of variety. These are the messages we need to convey – and offering high quality educational placements in general practice are the best opportunity for us to do this, but this takes resources and general practice is losing out, creating a vicious cycle.

“Investing in general practice is investing in the whole of our National Health Service.”

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