Bristol and Exeter Student GP societies: working hard to promote general practice



Alice James is a 4th year medical student at Bristol University. She is passionate about promoting general practice to other students in her role as Chair of the University GP Society (Bristol GPSoc) and student representative for the Severn Faculty RCGP.


Nilakshini is a 4th year medical student based in Exeter and is passionate about general practice. She believes it’s time to put the stigma associated with primary care behind us and start giving recognition for the challenging and exciting career that it really is.

The Bristol and Exeter Student GP societies aim to inspire members to consider a career in general practice through showcasing general practice as a versatile and fulfilling career and by challenging the stigmas associated with the profession by addressing controversial issues in the field. The societies provide CV-boosting advice, information about the GP training programme and hold events involving GPs with backgrounds ranging from conservation medicine and broadcast journalism to GPs with specialist interests.

Exeter student GP society, founded only in 2015, has initiated monthly practical teaching sessions for students in their pre-clinical years. This has been very popular so far and we are hoping to extend this mentoring scheme for students in their clinical years as well. This year the GP society are excited to introduce our inaugural debate under the auspices of Devon and Exeter Medical Society, ‘Are the increasing portion of female doctors, a key contributor for GP shortages?’. We hope that by addressing relevant and topical issues we can successfully challenge the negative stigmas associated with a career in general practice. Holding the event with the Devon and Exeter Medical society also provides students the opportunity meet and interact with general practitioners who are passionate about their career.

Bristol GPSoc, now in its 4th year, is planning to extend their annual conference to a full-day event to include student poster presentations and added workshops. The society is also planning a clinical skills workshop suitable for both pre-clinical and clinical years as an OSCE revision session. As well as stand-alone events, Bristol GPSoc has also joined forces with other University and Bristol-based societies. Last week the society held its first event of the year: ‘Mental Health: The Psychiatry-Primary Care Interface’ together with the Bristol University psychiatry society (PsychSoc). We heard from 2 local GPs, a consultant liaison psychiatrist and the founder of the mental health charity ‘Student Minds’. The 4 speakers addressed different ways of promoting better mental health by exemplifying methods used in their working environments. Approaches included peer support groups, self-care smart phone apps and services offered within GP services themselves including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and self-hypnosis.

Both societies have benefited hugely from support given by local RCGP Faculties. Exeter GP society would like to thank Tamar Faculty for the funding and GP reading list which they have kindly provided. Furthermore, Tamar Faculty RCGP have recently co- opted the Chair of Exeter GPSoc onto their board as student representative. Following this, Bristol GPSoc enquired whether Severn Faculty RCGP had would be willing to open up a similar role on their board at the next AGM. As a result, the current Bristol GPSoc Chair was elected as the Severn Faculty student representative at the start of this month. Severn Faculty also allows other students to attend board meetings as observers and provides elective bursaries every year for Bristol students undertaking an elective within a primary care setting.

University backing is also essential to the development of student GP societies. Bristol GPSoc committee members have been invited to GP teacher training days and have been involved in the University-wide curriculum review by the Centre for Academic Primary Care. In addition, the University of Bristol medical student society (Galenicals) have given support by advertising events, providing funding and holding a medical student Freshers’ fair to promote student-led societies. Exeter Medical school also played a key role in setting up the GP society and are often good port of contact for the committee members.

At the most recent RCGP conference, one of the RCGP Associate in Training (AiT) committee representatives, Jodie Blackadder-Coward, organised a meeting for student GPSoc representatives from around the UK. This provided an opportunity to communicate ideas that we can then relay to a national body. Suggestions discussed by students and RCGP committee members included formal affiliation of GPSocs with the college, guidance on elective opportunities in primary care and deliberation of having a foundation year doctor on their GP committee.

Support from the RCGP and individual Universities will be fundamental to the continued growth and development of GP societies and to facilitate communication between them. We hope
both Severn and Tamar RCGP Faculties will continue to advertise the role of student representative to medical students in future years and that other RCGP Faculties will follow suit. Such opportunities have enabled both societies to voice our ideas and concerns with the hope of making an impact at both the undergraduate and specialty training level. The recently forged links between the GP Societies at the Universities of Exeter, Plymouth, Bristol and Cardiff have allowed us to share ideas and extend invitations to events. We have also discussed the prospect of a collaborative event to attract students and junior doctors from across the South West.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cathryn Dillon
8 years ago

Great work both of you. It is so important that general practice has an equal and accurate voice within our medical schools. Enthusiasm like this rubs off and I hope will generate a wave of new talent into primary care at a time of high demand but great opportunity for innovation. Being a GP is a great job but we do need more of us to make it as good as it can be.


GP Somerset and Founder of GP+ Networking

Alwine van der West
Alwine van der West
6 years ago
Reply to  Cathryn Dillon

Hi Alice and Nilakshini,

I understand that the UK is short of general practitioners. I am a dutch medical student in my final year and am thinking of becoming GP. I would like to experience what it is like in the UK(Bristol). Can you put me in touch with someone who will take me on for some weeks in the summer?

Alwine van der West

Previous Story

Junior doctors’ dispute – learning from previous experience

Next Story

Junior doctor dispute: The politicisation of a generation

Latest from Undergraduate

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Skip to toolbar