Leading doctors denounce medical school ‘banter’

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Medical school ‘banter’ is contributing to a fall in the number of GPs and psychiatrists, warn two leading doctors.

Professor Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), and Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), are calling for an end to stigmatizing medical school ‘banter’ which they say is damaging general practice and psychiatry.

In an editorial published in the British Journal of General Practice, Prof Baker and Sir Simon write that the two specialties are the most derided during medical school training, and that this is negatively affecting students’ career choices and limiting efforts to achieve parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

They note a hierarchy created in medical schools that ‘puts physical health over mental health, hospital care over community care, specialism over generalism and “medical” specialties over “non-medical” ones’.

They write: ‘This [hierarchy] must be replaced by respect and understanding throughout medicine that all specialties are important, that all specialties have their own set of skills and values and the NHS will only function properly when we have sufficient numbers of doctors practising all specialties.’

The doctors say they are not calling for the ‘prohibition of banter’, but for more respect between healthcare professionals.

Prof Baker commented: ‘It’s so frustrating when we know that the things people are saying about general practice are simply untrue.

‘It's also very concerning, when we think GPs and our teams conduct 90% of all NHS patient contacts, that this “banter” is yet another barrier we are up against when trying to recruit enough GPs to ensure a safe and robust service for the future of patient care.’

She added that it will not be possible to meet Health Education England’s target for half of all medical students to enter general practice ‘when forces from within are working against our efforts’.

Sir Simon said: ‘People with mental disorders – just like those with physical disorders – deserve the best minds to find new treatments and provide the best care and this behaviour flies in the face of everything we are doing across the health service, and society, to give our patients with mental health parity of esteem to those with physical health problems.

‘This is why we launched our #banthebash campaign last year to raise awareness of and to challenge Badmouthing, Attitudes and Stigmatization in Healthcare.’

Prof Baker highlighted the College’s Think GP campaign for raising awareness of general practice as a ‘fantastic’ career choice, but said ‘more needs to be done from within medical schools, and medicine as a whole’.