Doctors have to acquire a huge body of knowledge during training and for general practitioners that knowledge is particularly wide-ranging. Their ten or more years of study comprise undergraduate, foundation and specialism levels of training. As qualified GPs they are likely to have thousands of women patients who, at some stage, are breastfeeding mothers, yet the breastfeeding content of the curriculum is minimal.
Placements in the specialism training may offer useful opportunities to learn from midwives and health visitors about the practicalities of supporting breastfeeding but this is a matter of luck, and the knowledge and skills of those mentors can be variable. It would be much more effective to have a requirement for acquiring basic knowledge and skills specified in the curriculum as well.
GP Infant Feeding Network and resources for GPs
A number of GPs, mothers who in breastfeeding their own babies became acutely aware of the deficiencies in their training, set up the GP Infant Feeding Network, GPIFN, in February 2016. In April 2017 they launched the GPIFN website, a valuable resource for doctors.
Does your doctor know about this website?
With regard to medical training (not just GP training), the General Medical Council (GMC) has recently published its Generic Professional Capabilities (GPC) Framework to provide broad outcomes for a consistent approach for postgraduate curricula. The framework was developed in partnership with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Domain 4 (there are 9 domains) looks to be particularly relevant to protecting and supporting breastfeeding as its title is ‘Capabilities in health promotion and illness prevention’.
Royal colleges, such as the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), are responsible for the details of their curricula. They revise them every few years and from the next revision will need to fit with the GPC Framework to be approved by the GMC.
The current standards show several gaps when evaluated by the WHO Education Checklist on infant feeding in the 2016 WBTi assessment of the UK.
Further information about standards for the different health professions can be found in Indicator 5 in Part 2 of the 2016 WBTi report.
Are you a doctor or trainee doctor?
If so, you might like to contact your specialty college asking for the infant feeding content of the curriculum to be improved.
Patricia Wise is an NCT breastfeeding counsellor and a member of the WBTi Steering Group, being the lead for Indicator 5, which is primarily about health professional training.
Cover image www.stayathomemum.com.au via Szőreg hivatalos honlapja