Widening access to medicine may improve general practitioner recruitment in deprived and rural communities: survey of GP origins and current place of work

J. Dowell (Lead / Corresponding author), M. Norbury, K. Steven, B. Guthrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Widening access to medicine in the UK is a recalcitrant problem of increasing political importance, with associated strong social justice arguments but without clear evidence of impact on service delivery. Evidence from the United States suggests that widening access may enhance care to underserved communities. Additionally, rural origin has been demonstrated to be the factor most strongly associated with rural practice. However the evidence regarding socio-economic and rural background and subsequent practice locations in the UK has not been explored. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between general practitioners' (GPs) socio-economic and rural background at application to medical school and demographic characteristics of their current practice.

METHOD: The study design was a cross-sectional email survey of general practitioners practising in Scotland. Socio-economic status of GPs at application to medical school was assessed using the self-coded National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification. UK postcode at application was used to define urban-rural location. Current practice deprivation and remoteness was measured using NHS Scotland defined measures based on registered patients' postcodes.

RESULTS: A survey was sent to 2050 Scottish GPs with a valid accessible email address, with 801 (41.5 %) responding. GPs whose parents had semi-routine or routine occupations had 4.3 times the odds of working in a deprived practice compared to those with parents from managerial and professional occupations (95 % CI 1.8-10.2, p = 0.001). GPs from remote and rural Scottish backgrounds were more likely to work in remote Scottish practices, as were GPs originating from other UK countries.

CONCLUSION: This study showed that childhood background is associated with the population GPs subsequently serve, implying that widening access may positively affect service delivery in addition to any social justice rationale. Longitudinal research is needed to explore this association and the impact of widening access on service delivery more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number165
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • General Practice
  • Manpower
  • Social class
  • Student selection
  • Widening access
  • Workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Education


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