Introduction: The supervisory relationship is a key source of support for postgraduate GP trainees in the United Kingdom. This article focuses on the institutional influences on GP supervision through an analysis of training documentation.
Methods: Training documents were identified through a search of key sources of institutional influence: General Medical Council, Royal College of General Practitioners, Health Education West Midlands and a local university's supervisor-training material. Searches were run from September 2016 until February 2019, and 60 documents identified. Content analysis was undertaken, and documents were considered based on audience, context, language and purpose.
Results: Institutional expectations regarding the functions of trainees and supervisors were identified, and supervisory relationships appeared entangled within the broader contexts of the training practice, wider profession and political events. Collation of evidence, quality assurance and patient safety were prominent messages within the documents. The institutional hierarchy was accentuated through these messages, and through processes for trainees to raise concerns. Moving down this hierarchy, messages from within the profession changed in emphasis and content.
Conclusion: With patient safety paramount, and high-quality training and supervision expected, the hierarchical system outlined by the documents is perhaps unsurprising. However, unintended messages may result: collation of evidence may be prized above quality and trainees may feel unable to raise legitimate concerns. Furthermore, conflicting messages from different institutions illustrate the tensions and complexities of GP supervision. For trainees and supervisors, these inconsistencies could lead to different perspectives and expectations as they interact within the supervisory relationship.