Strengthening general practice/family medicine in Europe—advice from professionals from 30 European countries

Zarbailov, N., Wilm, S., Tandeter, H. et al. Strengthening general practice/family medicine in Europe—advice from professionals from 30 European countries. BMC Fam Pract 18, 80 (2017).

Background: Substantial variations are still to be found in the strength of general practice/family medicine (GP/FM) across Europe regarding governance, workforce competence and performance, as well as academic development and position. Governments are encouraged by the WHO to secure high quality primary health care to their population, a necessity for reaching the goal Health for all. The present study aimed at investigating the opinions of council members of the European Academy of Teachers in General Practice (EURACT) on necessary actions to strengthen the position of GP/FM in their country.

Methods: The study used a mixed methods exploratory sequential design. EURACT representatives from 32 European countries first participated in brain-storming on how to strengthen GP/FM in Europe. Later, representatives from 37 countries were asked to individually score the relevance of the proposed actions for their country on a 9-point Likert scale. They were also asked to evaluate the status of GP/FM in their country on four dimensions.

Results: Respondents from 30 European countries returned complete questionnaires. To build and secure GP/FM as an academic discipline comprising teaching and research was seen as essential, regardless the present status of GP/FM in
the respective country. To build GP/FM as a specialty on the same level as other specialties was seen as important in countries where GP/FM held a strong or medium strong position. The importance of common learning objectives and a defined bibliography were stated by respondents from countries where GP/FM presently has a weak position.

Conclusions: In order to strengthen GP/FM throughout Europe, EURACT and other professional organizations must establish common goals and share expertise between countries. To influence decision makers through information on
cost-effectiveness of a GP/FM-based health care system is also important.

Keywords: General practice, Family medicine, Europe, EURACT, Quality improvement, Mixed methods

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