Towards highly trained specialists in General Practice/Family Medicine

Nele R.M. Michels, Nynke Scherpbier-de Haan, Jo Buchanan, Roar Maagaard

General Practice/Family Medicine (GP/FM) is a key discipline within primary health care and by extension for the whole health care system. Essential conditions for effective GP/FM care is a workforce that is highly qualified and the acceptance of GP/FM as a medical specialty. However, recognition of the discipline is still lacking in some European countries. In addition, specialty training programs for GP/FM are not always available and/or of sufficient quality. In the past 20 years, WONCA Europe and its teaching organization EURACT have produced several important documents on a common definition and description of the GP/FM specialty. These documents support the recognition of GP/FM and improvement in the quality of specialty training schemes in addition they promote international collaborations. The latter are facilitated by proposing a common language and understanding about the essential elements in GP/FM training.

In 2017 the European Union of General Practitioners (UEMO) decided to explore the issue of the recognition of GP/FM as a specialty within the member countries of the European Union (EU). A request was made by UEMO to WONCA Europe for a statement on the training requirements for GP/FM. This role was delegated to WONCA Europe’s education network EURACT.

EURACT’s Specialist Training Committee has made a compilation of all EURACT educational documents (from 2006 to 2014) and included some state-of-the-art recommendations to produce this document on GP/FM specialty training in Europe. As such, the minimum educational requirements for GP/FM specialty training have been described. This starts from the perspective of the trainees by describing the core competencies that are to be acquired during training, how these can be learnt and assessed. Consideration is then given to the duration of training, where training should occur and how trainees should be selected for GP/FM specialty training programmes. The importance of having a suitable training environment for GP/FM speciality trainees is emphasised in sections on the requirements for trainers and training institutions.

Full Document
This new document can inspire and guide all countries to implement and/or bring their specialist training to the highest standards, and in addition, warrants the registration of GP/FM as a medical specialty. This document was produced in the specific context of Europe but its general principles are relevant to GP/FM training in all countries. After all, the patients in GP/FM across the world deserve highly trained specialists in GP/FM.