Royal College of General Practioner, UK

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is the professional body for general (medical) practitioners (GPs/Family Physicians/Primary Care Physicians) in the United Kingdom. The RCGP represents and supports GPs on key issues including licensing, education, training, research and clinical standards. It is the largest of the medical royal colleges, with over 50,000 members. The RCGP was founded in 1952 in London, England and is a registered charity. Its motto is Cum Scientia Caritas – “Compassion [empowered] with Knowledge.

The RCGP is unique amongst the medical royal colleges in having both a President and a Chairman. The President takes a mainly ceremonial function while the Chairman sets the college’s policy direction, and leads the RCGP decision making body – the council. In 2012 the establishment of a new Trustee Board meant that members of the council were relieved of having to act in a statutory capacity relating to the college’s charity status.

The council of the RCGP encompasses 32 groups (‘Faculties’) located across the UK, the Republic of Ireland and overseas. These are semi-autonomous units that provide local support and services for doctors, including educational events, training and personal development services. The college also incorporates devolved councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that liaise with their own national health and primary care organisations.

The current President is Professor Mayur Lakhani and Chair of Council is Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard. The Scottish Council is currently chaired by Dr Carey Lunan.

RCGP membership is also extended to Associates in Training (doctors in specialty training for general practice) and Life Members. As of April 2015 the membership total stands at over 50,000. Members of the RCGP are required to abide by the RCGP constitution.

The college gained over 7,000 Associates in Training (AiTs) in 2008, when membership was made compulsory for GP trainees. The membership total has effectively doubled between 1998 and 2008.

Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP) is a postgraduate medical qualification in the UK. The MRCGP Qualification is an integrated training and assessment system run by the RCGP. It aims to demonstrate excellence in the provision of General Practice. While the MRCGP was originally an optional qualification, it has more recently become mandatory for newly qualifying GPs and is directly linked to the GP Curriculum which the RCGP published in 2007 and regularly updates as necessary.

In 2007 a new system of assessment was introduced, delivered locally in conjunction with deaneries, with the qualification awarded on completion of a three-year specialty training programme. Doctors with a licence to practise who successfully complete the MRCGP are eligible for inclusion on the General Medical Council’s (GMC) GP Register as well use of the post nominals that indicate membership of the RCGP (MRCGP).

The RCGP runs a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Credits scheme that offers GPs a flexible learning framework in which to produce a portfolio of work that supports the Revalidation process. Key elements of the college’s work in this field include developing a quality assured appraisal system and an ePortfolio that logs evidence of GPs’ learning.

The CPD scheme is supported by the Online Learning Environment and Essential Knowledge Updates (EKU), providing doctors with e-learning tools, publications and other written materials on the latest developments in clinical practice knowledge. The provision of educational support for members includes:

  • E-learning modules
  • BJGP/InnovAiT
  • Essential Knowledge Updates and Challenge
  • Personal Education Programme (PEP)
  • Clinical courses
  • Clinical updates
  • CPD Credits Scheme.

This has led to improved retention, which now exceeds 97%, and is 7% higher than the average retention rate for UK-based membership organisations charging a similar annual membership subscription fee. The RCGP has also developed Quality Programmes to support GPs and their teams. These are criteria and evidence based programmes which are designed to be voluntary, supportive and developmental in function.

The RCGP runs an Annual Conference each autumn, often attracting political, national and international speakers. The RCGP also hold a variety of courses and conferences throughout the year on specific clinical topics (e.g. Certificate in the treatment of substance misuse; Minor Surgery; Commissioning of local care; and regular ‘one-day essentials’ such as obesity, respiratory care and dementia – all aimed at GPs and other health professionals within primary care.

The RCGP builds partnerships with overseas health organisations, runs an International Development Programme and develops postgraduate assessment through an International Membership accreditation scheme called MRCGP[INT].

The college advises international doctors wishing to study or practise in the UK, and runs an International Travel Scholarship to support the study needs of members and non-members.

Co-founders of the college include Fraser Rose, John Hunt and George Abercrombie and others who joined the steering committee in 1951. The college began in November 1952 in response to growing physical, administrative and financial pressures that demoralised GPs and undermined standards of patient care. GPs now had to provide free primary care throughout the community and act as ‘gatekeepers’ with responsibility for referring patients to specialist consultants in NHS hospitals.

The formation of the college received widespread support throughout the medical press and individual GPs. In January 1953 ‘Foundation Membership’ was made available to established GPs who satisfied defined criteria, and within six weeks 1,655 doctors had joined. One of the first presidents of the RCGP was William Pickles. He spoke out in favour of the foundation of the NHS and was held in high regard worldwide for his work in epidemiology.

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