Continuing education for the general practitioner (GP) is in need of revision. Much of today's continuing education is based upon a traditional didactic approach, which is believed to be inappropriate and inefficient for the learning needs of the increasingly stretched GP.
Objective: To investigate the educational needs of a group of GPs, using the response to cancer to construct an appropriate model for the provision of care in general practice.
Method: The Delphi technique was adopted to reach "expert" consensus.
Participants: 49 GPs currently practising within two health authorities within the north-west region of England.
Design: Three waves of data collection were employed, with the same sample and the inclusion of an additional reference group.
Results: Many issues relating to the difficulties experienced by GPs regarding care of cancer patients were identified, along with associated training needs. Successive rounds of this Delphi survey enabled consensus to be reached about the level of importance to be assigned to these issues. This technique avoided some of the problems associated with a conventional committee approach (e.g. time, expense and potential bias in decision-making process).
Conclusions: First, the Delphi technique provided a relatively quick means of gaining a consensus on the complex task set for participants. Second, continuing training for GPs would benefit from the adoption of a problem-based learning approach rather than traditional didactic methods.