News that the RCGP's first-ever training curriculum for general practice had received unconditional approval (from the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board) might not have appeared on the front pages of the national broadsheets – but it is excellent news for patients, trainees and for those working in the NHS.
The culmination of more than five years' work, it is a groundbreaking development, which signals the advent of a new standard of general practice.
Modern GPs and their practice teams need to be able to deal with health issues at multiple levels, coordinating and orchestrating holistic care and dealing with uncertainty and complexity. The aim of the curriculum is to produce doctors who are able to look after patients with equal regard for "science and caring". It means that, for the first time, we have a specific definition of the areas and issues that every GP trainee needs to cover – regardless of where in the UK they are trained.
Society has changed over the last 30 years, and family doctors need to be able to thrive in a multifaceted environment. Patients today have high expectations. The impact of technology and new information systems has resulted in a climate of continual change, and modern GPs need to work within an extended team of other primary care professionals – both within their own practice and their local community.
Trainee doctors must learn the importance of supporting patients' decisions about the management of their health problems – and communicating how care will be delivered by the whole team. They need to carry out risk assessments, operate cost-effectiveness and be able to systematically develop and improve their healthcare systems.
It is essential, therefore, that primary care education promotes learning that integrates all these different disciplines and requisites.
The new curriculum has the patient consultation as its focal point and addresses the wide-ranging knowledge, clinical and professional attitudes considered appropriate for doctors intending to take up general practice. It covers everything from patient safety and problem-solving to clinical governance and the diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions.
If the doctors of tomorrow are receiving better training, colleagues in the practice team will also benefit. We must all work together to ensure that the curriculum is properly and successfully implemented. It is essential that the GPs of the future are fully equipped to embrace new models of healthcare and healthcare governance.
Practice teams will need to be aware of the new system and its assessment methodologies. In turn, the College needs to know how the new curriculum works in practice, how we can make it more easily accessible and how workplace-based assessments can work most successfully. It is crucial that we establish a two-way exchange whereby those helping to implement the new curriculum can raise specific areas and provide their viewpoint.
In doing this, I need the help of practice managers. In the future, I would like to see even more practices become training environments, be it for teaching undergraduates, foundation doctors or trainee GPs.
Collaboration is the key, and we all have a role in delivering the first-class training our GPs of the future need – and the first-class care our patients deserve.