Background: Several changes have led to general practitioners (GPs) working in a more differentiated setting today and being supported by other health professions. As practice changes, primary care specific continuing medical education (CME) may also need to adapt. By comparing different primary care specific CME approaches for GPs across Europe, we aim at identifying challenges and opportunities for future development.
Methods: Narrative review assessing, analysing and comparing CME programs for general practitioners across different north-western European countries (UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium (Flanders), Germany, Switzerland, and France). Templates containing detailed items across seven dimensions of country-specific CME were developed and used. These dimensions are role of primary care within the health system, legal regulations regarding CME, published aims of CME, actual content of CME, operationalisation, funding and sponsorship, and evaluation.
Results: General practice specific CME in the countries under consideration are presented and comparatively analysed based on the dimensions defined in advance. This shows that each of the countries examined has different strengths and weaknesses. A clear pioneer cannot be identified. Nevertheless, numerous impulses for optimising future GP training systems can be derived from the examples presented.
Conclusions: Independent of country specific CME programs several fields of potential action were identified: the development of curriculum objectives for GPs, the promotion of innovative teaching and learning formats, the use of synergies in specialist GP training and CME, the creation of accessible yet comprehensive learning platforms, the establishment of clear rules for sponsorship, the development of new financing models, the promotion of fair competition between CME providers, and scientifically based evaluation.
Keywords: Continuing medical education; Curriculum; General practice; Narrative review; Program evaluation.