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All fired up for the new apprenticeship plan


My immediate reaction to the news that Health Education England is planning an apprenticeship programme for would-be doctors is to wonder if I could take the Alan Sugar role in the inevitable TV reality show.

Others are responding more apoplectically – some with indignant froth about the potential dumbing-down of our beloved profession, and others with paranoid conspiracy theories about cheap and second-rate plugging of workforce gaps. To which I’d reply: ‘You don’t need to speculate on this vision of Hell. It has arrived already, and if you don’t believe me, I’ll get you an appointment with the mocktor/phoctor/noctor’.

Besides, we’re missing a trick here. Supporting the apprenticeship programme enables us to confirm general practice as the most important specialty of all. The rest, with their in-depth but very restricted knowledge and job-specific technical skills are more like trades than professions and therefore lend themselves to apprenticeships.

Don’t believe me? Look, everyone knows that surgeons evolved from barbers. As for the rest, orthopods are simply carpenters, neurologists electricians, plastics exterior decorators, cardiologists mechanics, urologists plumbers and so on.

Whereas we GPs, of course, have to know about absolutely everything and are therefore in a different professional league to all the rest. Because of us, the lesser specialties don’t have to worry their pretty little heads about issues outside their restricted area of expertise – they can rely on us to bale them out. Surgeons, for example – they don’t need to understand the niceties of renal function, if they ever did, which is presumably why those post discharge U&Es are always delegated to us. Or, to put it another way, that ‘GP to do’ list is short for, ‘GP, we don’t have a clue what to do’.

So fast-track those apprentices, by all means, to qualification and beyond. But not to general practice. You can’t reach the apotheosis of the medical profession via any route but the traditional, arduous, degree-based one. And for any orthopod reading this who thinks that ‘apotheosis’ is an insertion point for a tendon or ligament: with respect, you’re fired.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield

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