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Innovative UK-China collaboration to improve GP primary care training


Doctor's stethoscope on a laptop

A unique collaboration between the UK and China is set to benefit GPs of the future – and their patients – by identifying the challenges of the Chinese GP training system and driving forward improvements in clinical training.

The UK and China share a number of public health challenges, particularly chronic diseases in an ageing population, such as diabetes, dementia, heart conditions and respiratory conditions. Attracting high-quality medical students to enter the GP training system is another key challenge facing primary health services. Using the experiences of patients, educators and trainee doctors, this innovative new project aims to recommend and drive improvements to primary care training in both countries. Combining the expertise of specialists at our UK and China campuses, this project represents a unique opportunity to harness Nottingham’s global research strengths to transform healthcare in the world’s most populous country and deliver research that is truly world-changing.

Training the next generation of GPs

The partnership – between Health Education England, the Evidence Based Healthcare Centre at the University of Nottingham Ningbo Campus, and Ningbo First Hospital – will help equip new general practitioners to meet healthcare challenges and provide the highest standards of care.

Leading this new initiative – the first of its kind in the world – is Dr Prit Chahal, Honorary Assistant Professor at the University’s School of Medicine and Associate Postgraduate Dean at Health Education England.

Dr Chahal commented: “China has recognised that one very effective way of improving its wider healthcare would be by developing its primary care system. It’s now looking to the UK as a model on which it can base the training of the general practitioners who will be crucial in delivering that system.

“However, the impact of this research is going to be felt in both countries – there are things about our system of training which could be improved, so it’s about an exchange of ideas with the ultimate aim of raising the quality of healthcare for the ordinary citizens of both countries.”

Transforming primary healthcare services

Only 15% of doctors in China are general practitioners, compared to the UK where around half of doctors who qualify become family doctors. But behind the numbers, there are also cultural barriers that this project will seek to overcome.

GPs in China have very low status and are comparatively poorly paid. Many patients have little confidence in GPs and an ingrained mistrust of local clinics, preferring instead to bypass these and go straight to the hospital, which in turn are struggling to cope with the numbers coming through their doors. To drive a transformation in its primary care service, the Chinese Government has committed to widening access to healthcare by increasing the ratio of general practitioners to the population.

Against this national landscape, the Nottingham-Ningbo initiative seeks to play a key role in helping to drive up standards of general practitioner training and education, and has developed an exchange programme for GP educators. The programme will focus on quality and capacity building to help local hospitals to build their GP training systems organically. Two educators from the Ningbo First Hospital have spent two months in England interviewing their British counterparts, trainee doctors and patients, and UK educators have recently repeated the process in China.

Dr Huang Kai, a project member from Ningbo First Hospital, said: “This new exchange model has enabled young practitioners from both countries to learn through real world experience, significantly deepening their understanding of both systems and improving primary care training.”

Dr Chahal added: “We’ve seen there is an open door spirit in terms of colleagues wanting to help trainees to become the best doctors they can be by developing first class education and training programmes, which is encouraging and fills us with optimism for the future.”

New research to improve lives in China and beyond

The project is part of a host of new research projects launched at the University’s Ningbo Campus to help improve the lives of people in China. Leading the way in research into improved healthcare, greener transport and sustainable environments, the University is investing in its staff, students, partners and facilities to deliver world-class research that will transform lives nationally and internationally.

The GP training project is part of a wider initiative, Nottingham Health China, which is working to increase the amount and quality of research taking place between UK and Chinese healthcare institutions by forging new relationships between UK and China-based experts. Another innovative project pioneered under the drive to improve healthcare will analyse digital healthcare records in Ningbo to develop models with risk scores for cancer, heart and lung disease, improving medical diagnosis, treatment and disease management.

Professor Chris Rudd, Provost of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, commented: “Research is in the DNA of our institution. We’re seeing a remarkable growth in research outputs as a result of our commitment to investment, with momentum for translating this research to impact not only the people of Ningbo but around the world.

“This is an exciting time for the University as we grow our research and innovation in the years to come.”

Posted on Thursday 26th April 2018

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