Health Minister praises GPs for commitment to student training

Date published: 26 February 2024

Health Minister Robin Swann has thanked GPs across Northern Ireland for their commitment to medical student training.

1.	Photo caption: From left: Dr Gwyneth Brow, Church View Family Practice; Health Minister Robin Swann; Dr Marcus Graham; Dr Grainne Doran, and Dr Nicky Doyle, Church View Family Practice

Placements provided by General Practitioners are enabling medical students to gain valuable experience in the front line of Primary Care.

The Department of Health has been working closely with Queen’s University Belfast to increase the percentage of time medical students spend in General Practice from an historic level of around 7% to 25% by 2025. 

In addition, the Ulster University medical education curriculum also places a strong emphasis on clinical placements in General Practice. The first 70 Ulster University students are in their penultimate year of study with a high concentration of clinical placements in the northwest of NI, in both rural and urban settings. 

In the current financial year, the Department will spend £3.5m on supporting the delivery of undergraduate medical and dental education in General Practice across Northern Ireland.  The annual number of GP training places has been increased from 65 in 2015/16 to the current level of 121 (an increase of 86%).

Speaking at an event recognising excellence in undergraduate medical education, Minister Swann said: “It is my firm hope that the programmes delivered by our medical schools will encourage many of our brightest and most committed young medics to pursue a career in General Practice across Northern Ireland.

 “I want to recognise that accommodating the recent significant increase in quality placements has been an immense challenge, given all the other pressures on Primary Care.  I wish to place on record my gratitude to the many practices across Northern Ireland who have committed to supporting the education of the medics of the future, not least to new practices in the north and west taking up this role in response to the emerging needs of the new Ulster University medical programme.”

Minister Swann also acknowledged the key role played by General Practice and the dedication of GPs and their practice teams in providing treatment and care to patients in what are increasingly challenging circumstances. 

He said: “We all want to see a General Practice that is both sustainable and better designed to work not only for our population, but also for, and in partnership with, our GPs.  I am certain that the significant changes taking place in medical education in Northern Ireland will better equip the clinicians of the future to work in, or alongside, Primary Care.”

Event at Church View Family Practice in Bangor where the Harland Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Medical Education was presented

Minister Swann attended the event at Church View Family Practice in Bangor where the Harland Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Medical Education was presented. Each year QUB invites medical students to nominate their GP Tutor and the Practice team if they have had a particularly good educational experience.

This year’s prize went to Dr Grainne Doran, a former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Council who has recently retired from Church View Family Practice. Dr Doran and the practice were nominated by Dr Marcus Graham. He said: 

“Church View Family Practice created a culture amongst the GPs that allowed me to work alongside them as a member of the clinical team in the most supportive and safe environment. This placement has further cemented my ambitions to qualify and practice as a future GP. The breadth of knowledge and clinical skills required to undertake this role was so kindly demonstrated to me by the amazing team at Church View, particularly Dr Doran. I have no doubt that I am now better equipped for my career as a doctor.”

Dr Doran said: “The education of our medical students in GP practices is central to producing patient focused, holistic, well rounded doctors for the future. The importance of this is reflected in the dedication of GPs across Northern Ireland, who, while dealing with the current crisis in workforce and workload, continue to devote energy to the education of students from both our medical schools.

“I am proud to play a part in developing our future medical workforce and am grateful and humbled to have been nominated by Dr Marcus Graham for this award.”

Professor Nigel Hart, Associate Director for General Practice and Primary Care at QUB’s Centre for Medical Education, said:

“Our dedicated GP teaching team at Queen’s University passionately believe that the extra time our students are now spending in General Practice will positively contribute to a generation of rounded and grounded doctors who will be better equipped for their medical careers.

“Achieving this increased time has been a huge undertaking, requiring close, collaborative work with the Department of Health but most significantly with our GP colleagues and their teams who are under extraordinary pressure. Reading the feedback from our students about their placements gives us so much encouragement that our endeavours have been well-placed, and the efforts have been worthwhile”.




Notes to editors: 

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