What are the current ‘top five’ perceived educational needs of Irish general practitioners?



Doctors’ continuing medical educational and professional development (CME and CPD) needs are known to be strongly influenced by national and local contextual characteristics. A crucial step in the development of effective education and training programmes is the assessment of learner needs.


A national needs assessment was conducted among general practitioners (GPs) in the Republic of Ireland who attended continuing medical education small group learning meetings (CME-SGL) in late 2017. Doctors completed a self-administered anonymous three-page questionnaire which gathered demographic data and asked them to choose their ‘top five’ perceived educational needs from separate lists of topics for CME and CPD.


There were 1669 responses (98% of monthly attendance). The topics most commonly identified as a priority for further CME were prescribing (updates/therapeutics), elderly medicine, management of common chronic conditions, dermatology, and patient safety/medical error. The most commonly selected CPD topics were applying evidence-based guidelines to practice, appraising performance/conducting practice audits, coping with change, and managing risk and legal medicine. There was no difference between urban and rural practice settings regarding the most commonly chosen topics in each category; however, more rural GPs selected pre-hospital/emergency care as one of their ‘top five’.


Our findings identified priority areas where CME and CPD for GPs in Ireland should focus. The topics selected may reflect the changing nature of general practice, which increasingly requires delivery of care to an ageing population with more multi-morbidity and chronic disease management, while trying to apply evidence-based medicine and consider patient safety issues. CME/CPD programmes need to adapt accordingly.

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This study was funded by ICGP Career Support Grant.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephanie Dowling.

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Conflict of interest

Dr. Stephanie Dowling received a research grant from the ICGP called the ICGP Career Support Grant. No other funds were received by any of the authors for this study. There is no conflict of interest in this study.

Ethical approval

ICGP Ethical approval was received for this study. GPs were questioned only and no procedures were performed for this study. (All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.)

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Dowling, S., Last, J., Finnegan, H. et al. What are the current ‘top five’ perceived educational needs of Irish general practitioners?. Ir J Med Sci 189, 381–388 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-019-02047-y

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  • Continuing medical education
  • Continuing professional development
  • Education needs
  • General practice