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New HEE programme launched to equip a generation of clinicians with generalist skills

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A programme aiming to equip a new generation of healthcare professionals with generalist skills has been launched by Health Education England (HEE) – with 150 learners being enrolled across England.

enhance, which will embed generalist skills in medical education and the wider health system, is being piloted across seven regional trailblazers with the first cohort of learners starting in post this month.

The demand for clinicians with enhanced generalist skills was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, when an understanding of complex health needs and population health – combined with flexible thinking – enabled medical professionals to adapt services at rapid pace to meet patients’ needs.

The Future Doctor report in 2020 outlined what the NHS, patients and the public require from 21st-century medical graduates. One of the main recommendations was a fundamental shift in medical education from a system that places too much emphasis on specialism, to one that equally values generalist skills and approaches and a closely-aligned multi-professional team. 

enhance is HEE’s response to this – an interwoven offer with the goal of embedding generalist approaches early in training. It will complement current Postgraduate Medical and Allied Health Professional education, as well as supporting continued professional development of senior clinicians.

It is expected that better integration of their care will improve patient experience and the quality of care they receive. This is because clinicians will be more confident in managing complex care across a range of physical and mental health service delivery throughout their careers.

For example, through enhance, clinicians will develop additional skills to better manage patients with complex co-morbidity – i.e. two or more medical conditions – which currently affects around three million people in England and is increasing with an ageing population.

Rather than each condition being treated in isolation, clinicians will be able to collaborate with and lead multi-professional teams to overcome boundaries between specialties and organisations, ensuring care is streamlined. They will also be empowered to involve patients in shared decision making and co-design of care pathways.

Clinicians will also be better equipped to take what is described as a ‘whole person approach’ to healthcare – by understanding the wider factors affecting people’s health and working across community, primary and secondary settings to identify and respond to the needs of local populations.

By taking a proactive approach to care for a broad range of health conditions in response to emerging trends and issues across populations, they will be able to help people live more years in good health alongside treating existing ill health.

Professor Wendy Reid, Director of Quality and Education and Medical Director, Health Education England said:

“We are excited to be officially launching the enhance programme and look forward to hearing from our learners about their experiences, how the programme has supported their development of generalist skills, and the impact on patient care.

“By embedding generalist approaches in training we will ensure that all doctors have access to a robust, future-proof training experience, encouraging a curiosity for lifelong learning through personally relevant enquiry and are empowered to effect change within the communities they serve to ensure the best outcomes for their patients.

“This is not about re-writing or changing established curricula or training. It will amplify generalist principles, for example understanding population health, delivering sustainable healthcare and reducing health inequity. These are skills needed by both hospital-based clinicians and primary care practitioners.

“By focusing on the early years of training, acquiring enhanced generalist skills will be prioritised for all professionals, grounding their knowledge in the population and public health spectrum wherever they work and train.”

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