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Video aims to tackle GP shortage

A video aiming to show the varied role of GPs in the health service has been launched in a bid to tackle the shortage of medical students choosing to specialise in general practice.

It is the first national recruitment video to be launched by the Royal College of GPs, which said it will tackle stereotypes that general practice medicine is less stimulating and exciting than other specialisms.

Just over one seventh of doctors last year who completed foundation training chose to become GPs, and the number of unfilled posts rose to almost 8% in 2013, from 2.1% three years previously.

With an ageing and growing population - there are around 159,000 more patient consultations in GP practices each day than there were five years ago - the RCGP said it wants to raise the profile of general practice in the hope of better recruitment.

Currently as many as 10,000 family doctors are aged 55 or over, and the college said there are not enough graduates coming behind to replace them.

Alongside the video, which shows the varied role a GP plays in medical practice with some even working on cruise ships or in prisons, the RCGP will next week launch a series of regional recruitment roadshows.

The East Midlands, North West, North East of England and Yorkshire and Humber are some of the areas with the greatest shortage of GPs across the UK.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker, who last year wrote to medical students urging them to consider a career in general practice, said there is a "media perception" that GPs have a less exciting job than those who work in other areas such as emergency medicine.

Dr Baker said: " This video - and the GPs who appear in it - show that nothing could be further from the truth.

"Being a GP is exciting, varied and challenging, as well as being the only role in the NHS that delivers care for the whole person over their lifetime.

"GPs are now performing procedures every day in our consultation rooms that a decade ago would automatically have been referred to hospital specialists.

"We hope the video will reach out to the medical students and trainee doctors who are considering the direction of their future careers and show them what a brilliant profession general practice really is."

While Dr Baker said the profession has been hit by years of funding cuts, she added that GPs will play a huge part in the future of the NHS and a call has been made to increase its share of the health service budget by almost 3% to 11% by 2017.

Dr Baker said: "After years of under-investment in general practice and the focus on hospital care, there is now a real push for more resources into general practice and to build up the GP workforce.

"We are turning the tide on funding for general practice, with pledges from politicians across the UK that it is time to reinvigorate general practice, in order to deliver high quality and cost-effective care to our patients in the community.

"The future of the NHS lies not in hospitals but in general practice. With more investment and more doctors, we can reduce waiting times for GP appointments and deliver more care for patients closer to home, where they want it most."

Health Minister Dr Daniel Poulter said: "We already have 1,000 more GPs since September 2010 and increasing trainees so that GP numbers continue to grow faster than the population. We've also set out clear plans to train 5,000 more GPs by 2020."

Dr Clare Taylor from the RCGP said the reasons why more medical students are not choosing to specialise in general practice are not understood fully, but said part of it is to do with the exposure they get at medical schools to hospital specialities - as well as TV shows.

Speaking to Sky News she said: "I think some of the dramas on television can portray hospital medicine perhaps in a slightly more glamorised light."

Dr Taylor said it is a "fantastic job", adding: "I think all of us would really, really like more time with our patients, and to be able to provide even more services. And the only way we're going to do that is to have more people coming in."

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