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Portugal: Fury over govt’s plans to lower medical training standards

Portugal’s medical organisations have responded with fury to the government’s plans for a new doctor-training model that would cut curriculum requirements and length of training, in order to rapidly produce more doctors, writes MedicalBrief.

Manuel Heitor, Portuguese minister in charge of higher education, announced the opening of three extra university courses in medicine, to start within the next two years.

According to PortugalNews, apart from entities like the General Medicine Council, the Council of Portuguese Medical Schools and the Association of Family Doctors believing there is no need for these courses (presented as a solution to Portugalʼs lack of trained medical personnel), enormous exception has been taken to Heitorʼs justifications for them.

In interview with Diário de Notícias last Friday, he said that “in Portugal all doctors are trained in the same way”, when perhaps “this is unnecessary”.

“To train an experienced family doctor it is not necessary, perhaps, to have the same level of teaching as a specialist in oncology, or a specialist in mental health,” he said. So “expanding the training base in health – whether medical, nursing or health technicians” should be done “in conjunction with the diversification of the offer, also valuing other medical professions, such as family doctors”.

He seems to think family doctors could be taught and prepared for work more quickly than cancer specialists – and he would like to see this happening as soon as possible. He said this was already happening in the UK (which British doctors have been quick to refute).

Miguel Guimarães of the General Medical Council said the course in Medicine is “completely independent of post-graduate training”. “It has to stay as it is, as it is the world over. If we kill the holistic vision of Medicine, we are killing Medicine in itself, so we have to defend Medicine. We cannot let the minister think that Medicine can be broken up so that some have a complete course, and others half a course, etc.”

Henrique Cyrne Carvalho, president of the Council of Portuguese Medical Schools (CEMP) said: “Heitor is an engineer, looking at a situation from an engineerʼs point of view.”

His predecessor Fausto Pinto, now director of Lisbon Universityʼs Faculty of Medicine, added: “Teaching medicine is not the same as teaching mathematics. It could be this that the minister doesnʼt understand…”

He added that in contributing to “the impoverishment of medical education” Portugal could end up with an increased supply of doctors who are simply “exploited by medical companies to become cheap labour”.

Heitorʼs comments that “GPs are already trained differently in the UK” prompted the British Medical Association (BMA) to publish an immediate statement.

It said: “Itʼs inaccurate to describe UK GP training as less demanding than for other medical specialties…. Medical graduates – who receive the same university education regardless of which branch of medicine they wish to pursue – must complete two years of foundation training which forms the bridge between learning as an undergraduate in medical school and the transition into caring for patients on the frontline of the NHS. Completion of a minimum of three years General Practitioner Specialty Training on a GMC approved programme, passing the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners assessments, and gaining a Certificate of Completion of Training from the GMC are then required.

“Assurance processes are in place to ensure doctors who move to the UK from abroad, or demonstrate equivalent knowledge, skills and experience, also meet these high standards. UK General Practice Specialty Training is an intellectually rigorous medical training programme, enabling doctors to gain the skills and experience required to make a huge contribution to healthcare in the UK, providing expert care to millions of patients.”

There has been no response from Manuel Heitor yet, adds the report.


PortugalNews article – Major row blows up as doctors and universities reject government plans for new courses in medicine (Open access)


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