Psychiatric training for family doctors: what do GP registrars want and can a brief course provide this?

J Ratcliffe, L Gask, F Creed, B Lewis
Medical Education 1999, 33 (6): 434-8

CONTEXT: About 40% of British General Practitioners (GPs) train formally in a psychiatric post as part of their general practice training, but such training may not fully meet the needs of future GPs. A specific course in psychiatry for family doctors has run in Manchester for more than a decade.

METHOD: Semi-structured interviews conducted with GP registrars before attending the Manchester course in psychiatry with questionnaire follow-up afterwards to ascertain (a) the training 'wants' of GP registrars and (b) whether the course was providing them.

RESULTS: GP registrars most frequently wanted training in communication skills, how to access the resources that are available to GPs, the detection of psychiatric illness, drug treatment and the management of aggression. The course was successful in satisfying the first three but failed in the last two. There was trend for those who attended Manchester Medical School, which scored significantly higher on number of topics covered at undergraduate level, to perceive a greater need for training than those who attended other medical schools. However, there was no evidence to link self-perception of greater need with having already worked in general practice during postgraduate training.

CONCLUSIONS: More attention needs to be paid to how to address the specific mental health skills training requirements of GP registrars both within the attachment in psychiatry and during the practice year. Preliminary research is required to devise teaching packages before they are entirely satisfactory for GP education.

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