Education on ME
The General Medical Council Position
The 2010 Invest in ME conference has the theme of education of healthcare staff. It is important for healthcare providers to be aware of the symptoms of ME, the means to diagnose, the knowledge of potential treatments and the possibilities around mis- or missed diagnoses.
It is only by better education of healthcare staff that people with ME can obtain the correct information, advice and treatment. The GMC play a vital role in all of this. The standard textbook used by medical students in the UK still, erroneously, categorises ME in the mental health section.
Invest in ME had understood that the GMC are responsible for the curriculum of medical students.
We invited the GMC to send a representative to speak at the conference on the subject of the medical curriculum content relating to ME.
The GMC declined to send anyone.
They did reply to Invest in ME’s letter where we asked about the medical curriculum.
This is their reply.
To Invest in ME:
Thank you very much for inviting the General Medical Council to speak at your international conference, on 24 May, about the education of medical students on ME/CFS.
Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding. I am sorry, but we must decline your invitation on this occasion.
Perhaps I could explain the GMC's position in the context of the process which governs the development and inclusion of elements in curricula for medical education and training, and, allied to this, the GMC's relationship with the 32 UK medical schools in respect of their undergraduate curricula and the medical Royal Colleges in respect of the 61 specialty curricula.
For undergraduate education, the GMC require medical schools to develop curricula which meet the outcomes and standards set out in Tomorrow's Doctors - http://www.gmc-uk.org/education/undergraduate/tomorrows_doctors_2009.asp.
Although the revised version of Tomorrow's Doctors (published in September 2009) was more prescriptive than the previous edition, the GMC does not prescribe the precise content of undergraduate curricula. We do not have the legal power to set a national curriculum for the universities' undergraduate courses and we believe that it is important to preserve the independence of universities, the diversity of their courses and the innovation that can follow from that diversity – subject to the courses meeting our requirements in order to ensure patient safety and the fitness to practise of new graduates.
As you will see, Tomorrow's Doctors does not specify what should be taught to undergraduates about any specific conditions. This is decided by the medical schools when drawing up their own curricula. If you would like input to your conference from a medical school perspective I suggest that you try approaching the Medical Schools Council to see if they can identify an appropriate speaker.
The curricula for the 61 specialty training areas in postgraduate medical training are developed by medical Royal Colleges and approved by the General Medical Council. The GMC's Standards for Curricula and Assessment Systems http://www.gmc-uk.org/Standards_for_Curricula Assessment_Systems.pdf_31300458.pdf - set out the high level requirements for specialty curricula design and content.
Against this background, I am sure you will appreciate that it is impossible for the GMC to respond to individual requests for prioritisation of highly technical and complex medical conditions.
It is important, therefore, that the GMC work closely with the medical Royal Colleges and Faculties which have the relevant expertise and technical understanding of the medical conditions which relate to their specialty areas.
You could try approaching the Academy of the Medical Royal Colleges or the Royal College of Physicians (London) in particular if you wish to pursue the postgraduate perspective.
We do of course have links with the medical Royal Colleges and specialty associations, with patient networks and with research bodies such as the Picker Institute. In developing our curricular requirements we engage and consult widely, as we did in developing the 2009 edition of Tomorrow's Doctors.
Once again, I am sorry that the GMC has no specific role or expertise on what should be included in medical curricula about ME/CFS, or any other individual conditions, in order to contribute productively to your conference.