A shift in the teaching of medical students out of universities and into the community was launched this week as the Government proposed changes to its allocation of funds for medical teaching.
From April next year, medical school deans will be given a fifth of the Pounds 367 million National Health Service medical teaching funds, which they will use to put students on clinical placements, increasingly in general practice.
Until now, training in general practice has been minimal for undergraduates, with few GPs interested in teaching and marginal deals made when teaching occurred.
Gerald Malone, minister for health, said that the Service Increment for Training review arose from concern that SIFT was not always allocated where needed as NHS services move away from major teaching hospitals and into primary care. The Government has proposed that SIFT would be split in two, with four fifths for teaching facilities and one fifth, divided according to student numbers, for clinical placements. SIFT would come from a levy on all NHS purchasers.
The proposals were made by an advisory group led by Graham Winyard, health care director on the NHS Executive. Members of the group included Frank Harris, dean of Leicester Medical School and Martin Harris, vice chancellor of Manchester University.
Dr Winyard said that medical school deans will control the quality of placements: "This financial system will give them more powerful levers for moving students and they will be able to build the quality measures for teaching into contracts."
Ken Edwards, vice chancellor of Leicester University, said: "This is a generally acceptable move."
Michael Thompson, vice chancellor of Birmingham University, agreed: "This is an improvement on what we had before. It's the best we could have hoped for given that the NHS is undergoing these immensely radical reforms. It's a system which we can understand and which we can operate."
The report will be sent to the NHS and universities so that they can give their views on the detailed recommendations and on plans for implementation.