Education in dermatology will improve lives

I am passionate about improving care for people with skin conditions.

Education is fundamental to this objective – education for health care professionals who provide care and for patients to self management their skin condition. It sounds easy doesn’t it? Health care professionals will provide knowledge, support and patient education and this means that people with skin conditions can understand completely how to look after their own skin. This would result in everyone being educated in dermatology care, skin conditions would be well managed; and people living day in and out with chronic conditions would be totally in control of their skin with a good quality of life.

This is a utopia - we still have a long way to go in ensuring education in dermatology is on the health care agenda and patients with skin conditions are truly empowered. I struggle with the fact that common skin conditions, acne, eczema and psoriasis – which touch nearly every family in the UK are still given low priority in the NHS. In last century, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin (APPGS) report in 1998 highlighted the lack of dermatology training, calling for dermatology to be included as a compulsory module in undergraduate and post graduate medical training and incorporated into nursing and other professional allied to medicine (PAM) courses.

Incredibly, nearly, 20 years later, hardly anything has changed, the Dermatology Council for England in 2017 conducted a survey into dermatology education of every medical school in the UK - 15% were unable to identify any lectures or tutorials that provided specific dermatology education. So, one in seven newly qualified doctors have no education in dermatology, when 23-33% of the UK population have a skin problem that can benefit from medical care at any one time. Skin conditions are the most frequent reason for people to consult their general practitioner with a new problem, but dermatology is not compulsory in GP vocational training. Dermatology input included nursing and PAM courses, is simply ad hoc, which is just not good enough.

The implications for dermatology being undervalued in health care professional education means that the patient with a skin condition invariably suffers. Lack of education in dermatology means that HCPs are unable to give basic advice in managing common skin conditions – patients even report conflicting advice, which is confusing and causes unnecessary distress. Dermatology care is essential, as with some knowledge, small changes in skin care treatment plans can lead to big gains for patients and improve lives. Look out for future blogs when I will give dermatology education and share practical patient-focused tips on skin care and how health care professional can make these small changes in their practice.