Open Access Research article

Undergraduate medical education in general practice/family medicine throughout Europe – a descriptive study

Mette Brekke1*, Francesco Carelli23, Natalia Zarbailov4, Givi Javashvili5, Stefan Wilm6, Markku Timonen7 and Howard Tandeter8

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1130, Blindern, 0318 Oslo, Norway

2 University of Milan, Milan, Italy

3 University Campus BioMedico in Rome, Rome, Italy

4 Department of Family Medicine, State Medical and Pharmaceutical University “Nicolae Testemitanu”, 165 bd. Stefan Cel Mare si Sfint, 2004 Chisinau, Moldova

5 Department of Family Medicine, Tbilisi State Medical University, 33 Vazha-Phshavela Avenue, Tbilisi 0177 Georgia

6 Institute of General Practice, Medical Faculty, Heinrich Heine University, Moorenstr. 5, 40225 Duesseldorf, Germany

7 Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, FIN-90014 Oulu, Finland

8 Department of Family Medicine, Ben Gurion University, P.O. Box 653, 84105 Beer Sheva, Israel

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BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:157  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-157

Published: 1 December 2013



It is increasingly becoming evident that a strong primary health care system is more likely to provide better population health, more equity in health throughout the population, and better use of economic resources, compared to systems that are oriented towards specialty care. Developing and maintaining a strong and sustainable primary health care requires that a substantial part of graduating doctors go into primary care. This in turn requires that general practice/family medicine (GP/FM) strongly influences the curricula in medical schools. In the present paper we aim at describing the extent of GP/FM teaching in medical schools throughout Europe, checking for the presence of GP/FM curricula and clinical teaching in GP offices.


A brief questionnaire was e-mailed to GP/FM or other professors at European medical universities.


259 out of 400 existing universities in 39 European countries responded to our questionnaire. Out of these, 35 (13.5%) reported to have no GP/FM curriculum. These 35 medical faculties were located in 12 different European countries. In addition, 15 of the medical schools where a GP/FM curriculum did exist, reported that this curriculum did not include any clinical component (n = 5), or that the clinical part of the course was very brief - less than one week, mostly only a few hours (n = 10). In total, 50 universities (19%) thus had no or a very brief GP/FM curriculum. These were mainly located in the Eastern or Southern European regions.


It is still possible to graduate from European medical universities without having been exposed to a GP/FM curriculum. The European Academy of Teachers in General Practice (EURACT) will launch efforts to change this situation.

General practice/family medicine; Medical education; Undergraduate; Clinical curriculum; Europe