Championing and cultivating the intellectual expertise at the heart of the profession of General Practice

Royal College of General Practitioners

SAPC, working in partnership with the RCGP, is leading work to raise the profile of, capacity for, and impact of clinical scholarship across the General Practice and Primary Care community.

Why does scholarship matter?

Scholarship refers to both the intellectual task of GP practice (Every GP a Scholar), and the collective professional wisdom of our discipline.

Scholarship is the higher level thinking that underpins the everyday pragmatism of clinical practice - the intellectual expertise that enables clinicians to deliver highest quality care to their individual patients. 

Scholarship is a necessary part of professional excellence: both in the context of the clinical consultation, as well as the extended roles undertaken by many GPs including practice development and organisation, education, innovation, leadership, and research.

GP Scholarship - 'now more than ever'

Changing populations, professions and health systems all create new challenges for the profession of General Practice. More of the same will not do. It is time to reimagine General Practice in order to recruit, retain and nurture a workforce ready to meet 21st Century needs; and to reposition generalist medicine, General Practice and primary care back at the core of Health Service redesign.

Our view of scholarship recognises the full range of intellectual tasks described by Boyer. Namely, Discovery (including original research); Integration (information synthesis across discipline/topics/time); Application (discovering ways to use knowledge to solve problems); and Inspiration (teaching). Scholarship is defined by tasks and actions not by job title or contractual status.

We need to rethink how we recognisechampion, and cultivate General Practice as the intellectual discipline it is, and needs to be, to address today's healthcare challenges.

What is SAPC doing to champion GP scholarship?

You can read a summary of our ideas and work in this blog by Domhnall MacAuley, Associate Editor of the Candian Medical Association Journal, by watching this short video pubished by CMAJ, or read on...

SAPC recognises that the GP workforce is not homogeneous. We describe three subgroups with both shared and distinct needs.

  • Every GP a Scholar (sGP) – the intellectual essence of the profession of General Practice: recognising and supporting the higher level thinking/intellectual tasks underpinning the pragmatism of everyday practice
  • GPs with extended scholarly roles (eGP) – education, innovation, implementation, as well as research
  • Academic GPs (aGP)  – those with university based contracts in education and research – the smallest group but key to preserving and building recognition/respect for the profession of General Practice and the discipline of Academic Primary Care

From this, we have developed 3 work streams to take forward this work

Rethinking General PracticeChampioning and cultivating the intellectual expertise of all GPs - ‘every GP a Scholar’

Includes developing resources to shine a light on everyday scholarship, new support for professional life-long learning, and building and sharing collective professional wisdom

Rethinking General Practice careersEnabling extended roles and portfolio careers

Includes resources to help GPs 'get in' and 'get on' in extended roles, rethinking career planning

Rethinking Academic General Practice: sustaining and growing the GP contribution to the discipline of academic primary care

Includes development of a peer support network, and career paths review

Find out more...

Workstreams are being established by a network of colleagues from across SAPC and RCGP. We will post further details on the specific programmes, including programme leads, in the coming months. In the meantime, to find out more about any aspect of the GP Scholarship programme, please contact Joanne Reeve


Background Info

Why GP Scholarship?

We need to champion and cultivate the intellectual expertise of General Practice for the sake of:

  • Patients: to support the individually tailored care needed to address treatment burden, both over- and under-diagnosis, and the need for person-centred health care

  • Professionals: to address workforce challenges arising from low autonomy, replacing trust in people with trust in systems, and the burn out risks that come from feeling inadequately equipped to deliver the service demanded. To make visible the often ‘hidden’ expertise – every GP a scholar; to support the growing proportion of GPs with extended roles that involve scholarship (research, teaching and innocation); and to address concerns that General Practice is the largest branch of medicine but with the smallest proportion of academics.

  • Health systems: to embed the intellectual capacity and expertise needed to create learning organisations that are adequate to respond and adapt to rapidly changing health needs and contextual challenge. So as to deliver responsive and adaptive health systems that are fleet of foot, including embedding capacity to teach the theory and discipline of general practice & primary care throughout all levels of health systems.

Aims and priorities for the SAPC GP Scholarship work

Our GP Scholarship work maps to the strategic aims of SAPC.

Three Key Aims

  1. Addressing Career and Workforce development needs: recruitment and retention, making  GP careers attractive for current and future doctors

  2. Developing skills: enhancing front-line scholarship skills needed in today’s primary care and quality improvement agenda

  3. Raising awareness: promoting understanding of the intellectual expertise of generalist practice across the primary care commuity

Working Group

Partners from across SAPC and RCGP already involved in this work include SAPC Exec members Jo Protheroe, , Imran Rafi; SAPC members Emma Parry, Sara McKelvie, Umesh Chauhan, Faraz Mughal, Jonathan Mills; and RCGP Officers Martin Marshall, Helen Stokes-Lampard, Kamilla Hawthorn, and Nigel Mathers.

The Building Blocks

The GP Scholarship work builds on earlier SAPC work including Jane Roberts work on supporting GPs with Exended Roles, and Greg Irving's work on supporting Academic Clinical Fellows.

Collective professional wisdom is an integral part of Academic Primary Care: the distinct body of work and knowledge that defines, develops and delivers the person-centred model/system of healthcare that is primary care. We need strong Academic Primary Care, now more than ever, if we are to achieve the effective, efficient, equitable health care that the best models of primary care can deliver. The strength of our discipline comes from bringing together Primary Care clinicians, including GPs, and Primary Health Care Scientists in a shared goal of championing excellence in primary care scholarship driving improvements in primary care provision.