Thomas CP, Sibbald BS and Carter YH Royal College of General Practitioners, 14, Princes Gate, Hyde Park London, SW7 1PU, United Kingdom
The RCGP established its first research training fellowship in 1987 as part of a wider initiative to improve the quality of original work being conducted by general practitioners and to encourage research in general practice. The fellowship is designed to provide protected time for general practitioners to be trained in research methods, to pursue an original line of enquiry, to undertake a higher degree and to be linked to an academic unit. The candidate has to submit a protocol for the research they will undertake, a detailed training programme and firm arrangements for supervision.
Method: Questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and document review were used to evaluate the success of fellowships from the perspective of key stakeholders - research fellows, host academic units and the RCGP.
Results: The protected time for developing research skills and interests was highly prized by the fellows. Host units welcomed the opportunity to train a new generation of academic GPs and benefited from the fellow's contribution to the unit's research programme. Of 24 Research Fellows, 6 have obtained a higher degree (MD or PhD), 9 are working in academic departments of general practice and the majority have become "professional leaders", in a position to foster research activity and encourage its uptake. Thus the goals of the RCGP were achieved.
The RCGP lead the way in the provision of training fellowships for United Kingdom general practitioners. The model has been used by other funding bodies increasing the pool of GPs trained to undertake research relevant to general practice.