July 2017 News Updates

by Dr. Sajad Ahmad

It has been a while since I have written about any progress or new updates, a lot has been going on for the past six to eight months. We had an amazing July this year, more about that later.

At the end of last year, some of us started to engage with Khyber Medical University on how we could be of help in promoting Family Medicine. The interest had been mutual, a discussion of those few months saw the foundation of a separate panel on family medicine flourish at Khyber Medical University’s 8th Annual Health and Research Conference held on the 25th of April 2017. Family Medicine was discussed in detail by the secretary of health and options and discussion surrounding its promotion, trailing health centers, as well as the training of future family physicians, was discussed in detail.

Many insights were discussed in the panel dedicated specifically to Family Medicine by our Dr. Asma Kazmi representing APHCP.

The momentum from this did carry on, slow and steady, but this resulted in the formation of a focus group. Participation was encouraged from all over Pakistan with Ayub Medical College (Abottabad), Shifa (Islamabad), Fatima Memorial, University of Health Sciences (Lahore), Agha Khan University (Karachi) as well as the unflinching support of the World Health Organisation EMRO has been a key to the progress so far. It has been a great honor and privilege for APHCP to be a part of this team and help shape the future of Family Medicine in Pakistan.

The discussions from the initial focus group and after exchanging ideas and discussion in hundreds of emails in countless chains and telephone calls we flew to Pakistan in early July to participate in a two-day consultatory workshop held by Khyber Medical University under the auspices of World Health Organisation. The two-day event was attended by participants from all the four provinces including representatives from Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.  The attendance of Health department has been the key in taking the proposals forward. Presented by Family Medicine academics, senior examiners, PMDC, Family Physicians from both within Pakistan and the United Kingdom had the opportunity to suggest a way forward for the future. The two-day consultation concluded with the formulation of a concept note, a list proposals for the health department to carry out.

It has been an enormous privilege to be part of the team to help in laying the foundation of this wonderful speciality in Pakistan. Although some elements of Family Medicine are present in scattered forms in other provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan in particular lacks a setup to towards training generalists doctors. This in-spite of the facts that Four Medical Training Institutes of the province are recognised for Membership of the  College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan in Family Medicine.

I believe more can be achieved in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,  I believe there is a lot of potential for change towards better primary health care while keeping the costs of providing service down, I believe we can train our doctors working in the basic health units and provide them with the skills of family medicine. I believe we, working together can create a structure of primary health care that will complement the subspecialties of medical care already in existence. To do this, we need ownership, for, without it, we would be lost.

 

 

 

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Raising awareness about family medicine as a speciality with solutions for health care in Pakistan

APHCP Talks at Peshawar February 2016

An article reviewing our recent awareness talks by Dr. Sajad Ahmad MRCGP

On the 11th and 12th of February a group of us from the association visited Peshawar in Pakistan to deliver talks at two Medical Universities, the talks were culmination of a planned meeting held in January 2016 when it was decided between the members executive committee to do more in raising awareness about Family Medicine.Below is the account of the two days in February 2016.

11th – 12th of February 2016 
We arrived at Gandhara University, the venue of our first talk, this was the first time many of us were coming to the city as guests of an institution, of course, the entire project had been self-funded by the members, but simply being present among our teachers, delivering a talk about a subject that many in the country have little understanding about was a daunting task, we had managed to review each other presentations and made appropriate changes to slides after suggestions and group discussion, I had just landed in Peshawar the day before my first talk. we had a second talk planned at Khyber Medical College, this was going to be an exciting prospect, nerve-wracking at the same time.

Aims 
A variant of Family Medicine is practiced in Pakistan, but due to no compulsory  higher qualifications  in the subject the standards can vary, (1) It was only  in 2006 when United Kingdom took the path of compulsory MRCGP for all General Practitioners (GPs) (2)
We as an association believe that the family medicine should be promoted in Pakistan as it has the capacity as a specialty to be part of the solution to the ailing health care in Pakistan, as has already been proven by certain Middle Eastern countries recently.

We decided on delivering talks in medical universities to help raise the profile of family medicine and to create awareness among the students, this also allowed us to collect some basic information about their understanding after the talks through an online survey which was sent to more than 140 students.
Simple questions were asked about their awareness about the specialty and their likelihood of choosing family medicine as a specialty

Our talk was divided into three parts, 

First, “The Story” was meant to concentrate on three aspects, it began as an ice breaker for the students, sharing our own experiences and time when we were students in the same place more than a decade ago, I then concentrated on telling them what a life of a GP is like in the U.K, the variety, the challenges and the way we split our days, in the third part I concentrated on the history of NHS (3) and RCGP (4)

The second presentation “Why Primary Care” was delivered by Dr. A Jalil Khan, one of our Fellows, he concentrated on the background of WHO statement and understanding the need for primary care, the Hippocratic oath which has been beautifully adapted by Family Physicians the world over. The current model of Primary care in Pakistan was discussed in some detail, together with is the implementation of a western model possible in our country, we only have to look at countries in the Middle East to take an example, these are the ones which have embraced the speciality with open arms and are actively recruiting Family Medicine Consultants from the western hemisphere to improve the delivery of care for themselves

The third presentation “The Future of Family Medicine” was delivered by Dr. Moeen Ashraf, who’s aim was to review the current model of training that is offered across the developed world. Countries such as U.S.A, U.K, and Australian models of training in Family Medicine were discussed. Dr. Ashraf also discussed what is currently available in Pakistan in regards to the availability of training. The sparsity of training available in family medicine is indeed a cause for concern. Currently, only four universities are offering training and FCPS exam on the subject. None offer training in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.

Observations
Pakistan has a lot of potential for improvement, this is evident from the enthusiasm of the students and the warm welcome that we received from Mr. Ghulam Noorani Sethi, Dr. Abdus Salam (VC) of Gandhara University, Dr. Ejaz Hassan Khan (Principal / Dean), Dr. Mohsin Shafi and the Social Welfare Society of Khyber Medical College.

Both the students and the staff were keen to welcome the idea of delivering talks to raise awareness of family medicine. we firmly believe that Pakistan as a country can greatly benefit from an organized family medicine specialty which will deliver health care to millions of its citizens through adequate health promotion and continuity of care, this will eventually trickle down to secondary and tertiary level hospitals where the overwhelming crowds can be better managed.

The specialty requires trained clinicians, appropriately trained in the specialty through rotations and gaining Membership or Fellowship examinations, in the end, only then we will benefit from such a model, it is with these trained clinicians that we as leaders will be able to provide high-quality care and improve the livelihood of our citizens.

Many articles reviews have been written in support of family medicine being the torch bearer of health care, it is the only specialty that can cope with the changing demographics and the population boom, it is the only specialty that can keep the costs controlled (5)

Conclusion
Pakistani medical universities could benefit immensely from promoting a department of family medicine in their curriculum. A circular already exists in support of this from PMDC(6)

We had a very positive response from the students with 10% admitting to having had some knowledge about the specialty before the talk. to the question; How likely were you to choose Family Medicine as a Specialty before? 50% answered extremely unlikely before the talk.

We believe the creating of a family medicine department would ensure an interest from the students, and an approved training program would provide highly trained clinicians to rescue an ailing health system that is totally reliant on the secondary care at present.
The government needs to revitalize the Basic Health Units and Rural Health Units on a British model of primary health care.

The doctors need to be given incentives to specialise and to be part of the primary healthcare as is the case in the developed countries (7-8), this will ensure the provision of health care to all while at the same time bring in competitions between health centers to improve their quality of care. We are well aware of the differences in quality of care in different demographics, financial incentives for doctors are also a factor in the deficiency of provision health care (9). This can be only be addressed at a government level with some suggestions that have been mentioned above.

References
1.
Sabzwari SR. The case for family medicine in Pakistan. JPMA The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. 2015;65(6):660-4.
2. Riley B. The New MRCGP—What’s it All about? InnovAiT: The RCGP Journal for Associates in Training. 2008;1(1):49-52.
3. Webster C. The national health service: A political history: Oxford University Press, USA; 2002.
4. Fry J, Pinsent RJFH. A history of the Royal College of General Practitioners: the first 25 years: Springer Science & Business Media; 2012.
5. Committee FoFMPL. The future of family medicine: a collaborative project of the family medicine community. The Annals of Family Medicine. 2004;2(suppl 1):S3-S32.
6. Qidwai W. Family Medicine Made Compulsory Subject in MBBS Program: Implications for Health Care in Pakistan and the Region. Annals of Abbasi Shaheed Hospital & Karachi Medical & Dental College. 2015;20(1).
7. Benson T. Why general practitioners use computers and hospital doctors do not—Part 1: incentives. Bmj. 2002;325(7372):1086-9.
8. Shekelle P. New contract for general practitioners. British Medical Journal. 2003;326(7387):457.
9. Farooq U, Ghaffar A, Narru IA, Khan D, Irshad R. Doctors’ perception about staying in or leaving rural health facilities in district Abbottabad. J Ayub Med Coll. 2004;16:64-9.