LECTURERS in medical schools run down GPs and even tell bright candidates they are too clever for the job, potentially putting people off the career, doctors have warned.

Leaders of three different GP organisations have expressed concern that university staff and consultants who train medical graduates in hospitals belittle the profession.

While some light-hearted rivalry is expected between the different medical specialties, they feel the slighting of general practice is more pointed.

In one recent example a "senior academic" at a leading Scottish university is said to have told a class: "We do not produce GPs here, we produce proper doctors."

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Other tales include lecturers warning students if they do not work hard they will become GPs or advising aspiring family doctors they are too bright for the job.

The concerns have been raised at a time when 20 per cent of training places for new GPs were left unfilled. Practices in Scotland have closed because they could not fill vacancies and the Scottish Government wants to recruit 100 extra GP trainees.

Dr Andrew McIntosh, Scottish lead for GP Survival which represents 5,000 doctors across the UK, said when medical students visited practices, some still thought GPs overwhelmingly dealt with coughs and colds.

He said: "By the time they come out to us as fourth and fifth year medical students it seems to have been gradually engrained in them that general practice is still the dead end career that people go into if they cannot go into anything else - or that female medical students probably do it because they want to have children."

While some hospital consultants have great respect for GPs, Dr McIntosh said that some did not really know what the job entails.

He called on them not to "rubbish" the profession, adding what might be a passing joke about GPs being on the golf course would stick with some younger medics.

Dr Miles Mack, Scotland chairman for the Royal College of General Practitioners, agreed that talking down general practice is an issue.

He said: "General practice has a problem with its image. When people get experience of what we do, they are often surprised by how incredibly challenging, interesting and how varied the work is."

Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said putting down general practice was widespread, with both politicians and the media also involved.

He continued: "I know there are some consultants who are very respectful about general practice. They are usually the ones who have spent a little bit of time in general practice as part of their training. Not enough of them spend time in primary (community) care before they spend the rest of their careers in hospital."

Providing more opportunities for medical students to experience general practice is among the measures the leaders feel could make a difference.

Dr Mack said Dundee University is planning to place students in general practice for a year as part of their degree.

He suggested improving relationships between consultants and GPs would also help. But he added: "If you are going to fix a recruitment crisis in general practice you really need to take a whole system approach."

The growing workload which GPs are shouldering as the population ages is also widely regarded as part of the recruitment problem.

Jamie Henderson, a third-year medical student and chair of the BMA's Scottish medical students committee, said there were "stereotypes" attached to all the different fields of medicine.

He said orthopaedic surgeons were painted as just working with hammers and chisels, anaesthetists as believing all was well if patients were asleep and GPs as sitting in offices drinking coffee.

However, he said exposure to GP training varied across medical schools and should be standardised.