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Undergraduate primary care teaching at Imperial College London

The Department’s Undergraduate GP Teaching Unit consists of over 25 staff with course leads, teaching fellows, and administrators. It is led by Dr Sonia Kumar, Director of Undergraduate Primary Care Education and Dr Jo Harris, the Deputy Director. It is one of the most active and innovative teaching teams in the Faculty of Medicine, with around 300 community GP teachers providing teaching for hundreds of students every year and it achieves some of the highest feedback ratings from students in the Medical school. And there are exciting developments on the horizon.

Across all years, the GP Teaching Unit delivers about 13% of the entire undergraduate medical curriculum. Core GP-based teaching is focused on two three-week attachments in years 5 and 6, basic history-taking and examination skills in year 3, and a chance to follow patients early on in year 1 in the First Clinical Attachment. The Department also leads on teaching on clinical consultation skills, using video and simulated actor patients in state of the art communication skills suites and plays a key role in the Year 5 PACES examinations. Students rate their GP teaching extremely highly. Dr Sonia Kumar says, “Feedback scores are consistently among the highest of any teaching in the medical school. Students say they particularly value the close attention they get in general practice, where teaching is often one-to-one or in small groups, and students can get to know their GP teacher over several weeks”.

To deliver consistently high quality teaching to up to 400 students in each year is a major logistical challenge. The department depends on a highly efficient administrative team, led by Jenna Mollaney, to co-ordinate all the placements with several hundred GP teachers, based anywhere from Hammersmith to The Isle of Skye. The course leads make ensure the courses run smoothly; delivering department-based teaching, checking student assessments and feedback, and supporting any students (or teachers) in difficulty.

The GP Teaching Unit is also extremely active in teacher training. They run a range of training courses for GP teachers in the community as well as teacher observations. The newly recruited faculty development lead, Dr Aisha Newth will further strengthen these links between the Department and its wealth of Community teachers. The Department also organises two main conferences every year--an annual GP Teachers Conference and Faculty of Medicine Conference--for keeping up to date and refreshing teaching skills for GPs and consultant colleagues alike.

Feedback scores are consistently among the highest of any teaching in the medical school. Students say they particularly value the close attention they get in general practice, where teaching is often one-to-one or in small groups, and students can get to know their GP teacher over several weeks”.

GP teachers in the department regularly welcome visiting colleagues from around the world and play a significant role in the development of the new Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine in Singapore, in the RCGP's work in China, and with teams of teachers hosting visits of Chinese doctors. They also visit China to run training courses in clinical communication skills; and have advised on primary care policy issues in a number of countries.

The Department is also involved in postgraduate training, supervising 6 Academic F2 (AF2) doctors a year, and up to 4 academic ST4 GP Trainees. In addition, it is rapidly expanding its medical education research programme under the leadership of Dr Graham Easton, with a focus on evaluating new and existing teaching, and wider dissemination through publication and national conference presentations. Dr Easton will also be the GP representative on the Medical Education Ethics Committee.

The NHS is currently undergoing its biggest change and challenge since its inception in 1948. Health services and increased responsibility are being shifted very purposefully into the hands of GPs and this will have a direct impact on how medical education will be delivered in the future. The GP Teaching Unit at Imperial has already been developing some ideas, Dr Poonam Chouhan, one of four Clinical Teaching Fellows, has helped to develop a cancer care in the community workshop, following the patient journey from diagnosis to treatment. The team are also working on a pilot attachment with their Dermatology colleagues, and we are also interested in the Longitudinal Clerkship Model from Harvard, where medical students experience patients and conditions as a continuum rather than the traditional block approach using Primary Care as a base.

We are very excited by what lies ahead and what our GP teaching team can offer Imperial’s medical students.

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