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More than 10,000 sign up to virtual general practice work experience during Covid

by Awil Mohamoud
7 August 2020

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More than 10,000 people have signed up to undertake ‘virtual’ work experience in general practice during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has said.

The RCGP’s online programme ‘Observe GP’, launched during the pandemic, allows aspiring medics to shadow primary care teams through pre-recorded videos of ‘real-life scenarios’, as they would during a traditional work experience placement in a surgery.

The video platform had been developed prior to Covid-19 to provide an ‘innovative way’ for students to gain work experience, but has instead allowed them to continue learning from their homes while the country has been in lockdown, the RCGP said.

The videos were filmed at Attenborough Practice in Bushey, Hertfordshire, Liberty Road Practice in Stratford, East London, and Sawston Medical Centre, Cambridge.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, said: ‘Ten thousand registrations in four months is incredibly encouraging for the future of our profession, particularly when you consider that UK medical schools receive around 20,000 applicants each school year.’

He added that the level of engagement reflects that ‘a significant number’ of aspiring medics are interested in general practice.

‘More accessible’ work experience

The programme was also designed to make gaining clinical work experience more accessible, as ‘placements are traditionally hard to find for reasons including the intense workload pressures GPs are working under’, the RCGP said.

Professor Marshall said it has also provided an alternative for students who planned to use their summer holiday to gain work experience but could not do so due to the pandemic.

He added: ‘Many aspiring doctors will have watched with admiration as GPs and colleagues across the NHS have gone above and beyond throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – it’s important we engage with those students to highlight general practice as a viable career option, and Observe GP has been an excellent vehicle for doing so.’

According to the college, the programme has been publicly endorsed by more than half of the UK’s medical schools.

Workforce shortages

The NHS People Plan, published last week, urged the NHS to build on the ‘unprecedented interest’ in healthcare careers seen during the pandemic, which it said had ‘already translated into higher numbers of applications to education and training’.

In the report, Health Education England (HEE) said it would invest in 250 extra foundation year two training posts in areas facing workforce shortages, including general practice, for 2020/21.

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