Undergraduate teaching in general practice started life in the University of Leeds on 1 July 1974 as a division within the department of community medicine and general practice. The department was headed by Professor Gerald Richards, whose clear preference was that, in terms of educational and research policy, the new unit should have a considerable measure of autonomy.
Though vigorously supported by the then Dean (Professor Derek Wood), the creation of such a unit was regarded with derision by a few of the influential senior faculty staff. Curricular time was, consequently, limited at first to a fortnight in the students' final year.
Financial issues also loomed large. Some four years earlier the UGC had ruled that NHS fees and allowances earned by practitioners appointed to such a unit should be assigned to the university. There was to be no ‘service increment for teaching’ (SIFT) such as applied to hospital-based teaching units.
John Wright was appointed head of the division six months in advance and this enabled the selection of sixteen part-time ‘tutors in general practice’ – local practitioners who would take students regularly into their practices and meet monthly to review problems and progress. This also allowed time to gain experience from visiting other units, both in the UK and in Toronto and at McMaster in Canada.
In 1967, all London medical schools were separate institutions based on their teaching hospitals, many of which had moved from their original central sites. Successive attempts at merger met resistance, but by 2000 there were just five undergraduate schools, all incorporated in large multi-faculty colleges with the exception of St George's.
IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON
In the north-west, Imperial College absorbed St Mary's Hospital in 1989 and in 1997 also took in Charing Cross and Westminster Hospitals (already merged in 1983).
Charing Cross Hospital
Early development of general practice teaching
Charing Cross Hospital medical school started in the mid-nineteenth century at the hospital building near The Strand, London. It was small, taking twenty to thirty new students annually. General practice teaching started in the 1950s when students were invited to stay with a general practitioner (usually an alumnus) for three weeks in their final year. Most practices were outside London (often rural), enabling students to experience the daily life of a general practitioner, including out of hours work and living with his family.
Charing Cross Hospital moved to Fulham in 1974, and the annual school intake increased to 120. The final-year general practice attachment expanded accordingly and the Dean, Professor Glenister, initiated plans for an undergraduate general practice teaching unit. The education committee of the north and west London faculty of the RCGP took great interest in the developments, especially as the GMC was threatening to remove accreditation from schools that did not have departments of general practice.
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