Boost GP recruitment by training medical students in practices, say researchers

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  28 Feb 2017

Medical students who receive their primary care training in general practice rather than a classroom are more likely to choose to enter the profession, researchers have found.

The researchers said that their findings showed that more medical undergraduate funding should be directed towards general practice placements “to address the crisis in recruitment in primary medical care.”[1]

In a paper published in the British Journal of General Practice, researchers from Newcastle Medical School said that they had found “an association between the quantity of clinical general practice teaching at medical school and later career destination of general practice after foundation training.”

The researchers sent questions to all 31 UK medical schools about the amount of exposure their students had to primary care in 2007 and 2008. Although a 100% response rate was achieved, two medical schools were discounted from the study. One because it was a new medical school which had no available data on where its students went after graduation and the other because it was a graduate entry only medical school.

The information was reviewed and the total number of clinical or “authentic” sessions, such as a teaching session in a practice with patient contact, were counted, as well as non-clinical sessions, such as group tutorials in the medical school.

The researchers then used the UK Foundation Programme Office destination surveys from 2014 and 2015 to determine the percentage of foundation doctors who were appointed to a general practice training programme from each medical school.

By analysing the two sets of data the researchers found that a “statistically significant association was demonstrated between the quantity of authentic general practice teaching per medical school and the percentage of their year two foundation graduates who selected general practice training programmes.”

They said that this association had been presumed to exist but that their study clearly demonstrated it for the first time. “This association has serious implications for medical schools and the Department of Health,” the researchers said.

They also recognised that the association did not prove causation and it would be reasonable to assume that students who were attracted to general practice would also be attracted to medical schools that were known to provide more teaching in primary care.

“Further research is needed to confirm or refute the association,” the researchers said, “to explore what factors within ‘authentic teaching’ may be relevant, and to further interrogate the intertwining factors of recruitment and teaching exposure.”

They said that the study suggested that “an increased percentage of medical undergraduate funding should be directed towards general practice placements to address the crisis in recruitment to primary medical care.”

They added, “Furthermore, because of the uncertain and complex funding arrangements currently in place within medical schools, the authors recommend that this money be ringfenced to ensure that it reaches its intended destination safely.”


  1. Alberti H, Randles HL, Harding A, McKinley RK. Exposure of undergraduates to authentic GP teaching and subsequent entry to GP training: a quantitative study of UK medical schools. 2017. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: