August 8, 2016, by studentcontributor

Regional GP work experience scheme

A total of 20 aspiring doctors took part in a Health Education England-funded GP work experience scheme targeted at year 12 students across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

The aim of this initiative is to improve access to medicine for students from less advantaged backgrounds in the East Midlands. Eligibility to this scheme was designed to align with the criteria required for students applying to the Medicine with Foundation year at The University of Nottingham, a course specifically for students meeting widening participation criteria.

The application process was carried out primarily through approximately 50 targeted regional schools, which supported the students’ application process. Three separate cohorts of Year 12 students successfully completed the one-week work experience placements in Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire County and Derbyshire GP practices.

The next academic year will see an increased 60 places on offer.

The Placement Week

The placement involved students spending three days in General Practice and 2 days at the University to prepare beforehand and to reflect afterwards on the learning gained.

Day 1: Induction at the School of Medicine (Nottingham and Derby) which included discussions on the role of General Practitioners, a workshop on medical ethical principles and behaviours, including the importance of confidentiality and code of conduct as well as practical clinical skills sessions and the logistics of the three days in General Practice.

The placement induction ensured that students understood the importance of, and adherence to, confidentiality within their placements.

“The teaching was fun to do. Students were enthusiastic, well informed and actively engaged with the teaching on ethics and consent and confidentiality. We stressed the privileged position they were in and its strictly confidential nature and they all seemed to engage well with this process and understand. They were of a high level and some of their ethical reasoning was what I would expect of second-year medical students.”

–Dr Gurvinder Sahota, Clinical Assistant Professor in Primary Care and GP

Days 2 – 4: 3 days in allocated practices. Each student had individual work plans, prepared by the practice in advance. Content varied according to practices and would include observations of GP consultations, nurse surgeries, midwifes, minor operations, home visits, reception, insight into the practice as a business with practice managers.

Day 5: Debrief at the medical school. This included:

  • Reflecting on clinical experiences observed, what was learnt about the roles of GPs and the wider general practice team
  • Reflection on what students have learnt about themselves and their own qualities in relation to the role of a GP
  • Sessions covering admissions and entry requirements for medicine and medical career pathways
  • Discussions with medical students about their first hand experiences of being a medical student
  • Continuing support available to students via ‘Widening Access to Medical School’ programme, including e-mentoring, hospital based work experience, events supporting personal statements, interviews and more.




All placement students enjoyed their placements and significantly valued the opportunities for direct clinical observations and to discuss with doctors their own professional journeys and decision-making.

They learned how GPs work effectively within a multi-disciplinary team and the importance of this teamwork and effective communication skills to delivering patient care. Many students gained noticeable confidence communicating within a professional environment and learned to reflect on their own skills and qualities. For the majority of students the direct clinical insight gained has motivated them further into medicine.

It has solidified my decision to study medicine.”

Some students also aspired to become GPs after observing their work:

“It has cleared up some common misconceptions about general practice and showed me that it is quite varied and allows for a wide range of opportunities.”

It has inspired me even more to pursue a career in medicine, specifically becoming a GP as it showed me the great relations doctors build with their community.”

The placement has also allowed one student to constructively question his suitability to medicine.

Students valued clear information about admissions processes and entry requirements and the direct follow on support available to them through WAMS opportunities.


Feedback from teachers on the scheme has been very positive. They appreciated how difficult or impossible it was for students to obtain GP work experience if they did not have family or personal contacts within the profession. Teachers have commented upon the positive impact for participating students:

He is a lot more focused and clear about what he wants and needs to do.”

                —Head of Year 12, NUAST Academy

We have gained support from the East Midlands Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Partnership. Focus groups with students have been carried out to better ascertain students’ motivations and experiences of personal and educational support received to pursue medicine.

Students will be contacted in the autumn, to track their decision making following UCAS applications.

General Practices

General Practices have also enjoyed the experience and notably have enjoyed being able to nurture enthusiastic student’s interest and confidence in general practice and in medicine.

“It is a valuable opportunity to give a positive experience of general practice at an early stage in students’ careers. It is also a stimulating experience for clinical and non-clinical staff and is good for our self-esteem as a practice.”

–GP, Derbyshire practice

 “The placement was very enlightening for us as well as them. It took me back to my enthusiasm for the profession and how I saw things before we got weighed down by the politics.”

–GP – Nottinghamshire practice


We would like to thank all colleagues that have supported the delivery of the scheme with such enthusiasm and commitment, including Dr Gurvinder Sahota, Dr Yasmin Ackbarally, Dr Charlotte Morris, Dr Caroline Anderson and Roderick Cable; Admissions and Careers support from Martine Lowes, Linda Kelly and Rachel Curly; recruitment support from colleagues in the Widening Participation Unit; and the invaluable support and inspiration from Widening Access to Medical School students–Ella Quintela, David Steel and Rebecca Clegg.

The support and advocacy from respective Local Medical Committees has been encouraging, as have the positive response and participation from General Practices, all of whom wish to continue their involvement in hosting future placements.

Report by Sarah Greaves, Outreach Development Officer, Division of Primary Care, The University of Nottingham School of Medicine.

Posted in Widening Participation