Creating better doctors: exploring the value of learning medicine in primary care

Background: Across the UK, 13% of undergraduate medical education is undertaken in primary care (PC). Students value their experiences in this setting but uncertainty remains about the extent to which these placements influence their future practice. Aims: To explore the impact of PC based undergraduate medical education on the development of medical students and new doctors as clinicians, and on students’ preparedness for practice. Methods: Mixed method study across two UK medical schools. Focus groups and individual interviews with Year 5 medical students, Foundation Year 2 doctors and GP Specialty Trainees; online surveys of Year 5 medical students and Foundation Year 2 doctors. Results: PC placements play an important part in the development of all ‘apprentice’ doctors, not just those wanting to become GPs. They provide a high quality learning environment, where students can: gradually take on responsibility; build confidence; develop empathy in their approach to patient care; and gain understanding of the social context of health and illness. Conclusions: The study suggests that for these results to be achieved, PC placements have to be high quality, with strong links between practice-based learning and teaching/assessment in medical school. GP tutors need to be enthusiastic and students actively involved in consultations.