Founding faculty – Dr Peter Fletcher: Proud to have spearheaded a new way of learning


Dr Peter Fletcher

Consultant Care of the Elderly Physician, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

In 2001, a young geriatrician with a background in Medical Education helped to deliver a meeting called ‘I want to be a consultant’. A far cry from keynote speakers addressing a theatre of silent recipients, the informal, interactive day was a breath of fresh air to the final year registrars who attended. ‘The feedback was brilliant and the content was really embraced because of how it was delivered’, remembers Dr Peter Fletcher, a Consultant Care of the Elderly Physician in Gloucestershire.

As one of the four founders of the Parkinson’s MasterClass, the interactive learning and the core ‘application of knowledge into practice’ style that characterises the course is very much Peter’s contribution. As Academic Director Peter is the only founder who is still an active faculty member. He established the pre-course needs analysis that dynamically shapes each course delivered, and has been instrumental in moving the course on over the years, adapting to the changing landscape of Parkinson’s care and responding to new ways of teaching and sharing information. ‘I’m trying to encourage our speakers to learn from TED talks at the moment’, he notes. ‘Less information on the PowerPoints, pictures that add something or encompass a whole idea are best,’ he muses.

Dr Peter Fletcher at Cutting Edge Science for Parkinson's Clinicians, Birmingham 2018

Peter clearly still has a real passion for delivering optimised learning, but with a very tangible goal in mind. ‘It’s all about service development on the ground, and the patient’s experience of that,’ he says. ‘The NHS talks about ‘quality improvement’ and the MasterClasses are very much about that; it’s moving on all the time.’

The course content, and the way outcomes are encouraged in practical ways though, is very organic. ‘We offer the principles, but the ‘look’ on the ground can be very varied.’ Peter gives the example of the intermodule projects that are a mandatory part of the Advanced course. ‘Hugely different service development solutions have been used to get the same outcomes,’ he highlights.

Dr Peter Fletcher and Sarah Gillett, 2014

Whilst a relaxed and responsive learning style may be more common today, in the health education field there is still a tendency to fill a room with professionals and ‘talk at’ them. Yet the MasterClass model is clearly working in health. Peter talks about ‘face validity’ in terms of its success - the impact of the MasterClass over the years cannot be measured by simple numbers but is felt in the way health, and care is changing. Whether in its transference of core principles into other MasterClasses and to single day events run by the Neurology Academy, or as a model parachuted in to lend success to other organisations’ learning outcomes, it is clearly a successful way of delivering learning and effecting change.

‘This learning model is still seen as radically different in some fields,’ he says. But 25 people debating a new clinical practice around a shared table will effect change in real life whereas 300 people in a lecture theatre falling asleep probably will not - cannot.

‘Giving challenging learning outcomes that will change things at a grassroots level, and keep changing them - that’s what makes a difference to people with Parkinson’s’.

Peter works hard in his clinical practice to give his own patients the best care he can, and yet his continued involvement in shaping the MasterClass and the specialists it produces has doubtless benefitted the lives of many thousands of people with Parkinson’s, something he is very proud of.

Parkinson's MasterClass 10 in Cornwall 2007

Useful links:

'The things you can't get from the books'

Parkinson's Academy, our original and longest running Academy, houses 20 years of inspirational projects, resources, and evidence for improving outcomes for people with Parkinson's. Led by co-founder and educational director Dr Peter Fletcher, the Academy has a truly collegiate feel and prides itself on delivering 'the things you can't get from books' - a practical learning model which inspires all Neurology Academy courses.