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Fradd's exit was no slur on his ability

The number of GP partnership vacancies on offer is plummeting, an investigation by Pulse has revealed.

An analysis of job advertisements in medical publications over the last three years shows the number of partnerships on offer has more than halved.

GPs said the findings were further evidence of the shift towards salaried and part-time working. But some warned

of long-term problems if too few GPs were willing to take an equity stake in practices.

The number of adverts for partnerships in the BMJ in the eight weeks between mid-June and mid-August fell from 430 in 2003, to 260 in 2004 and 179 this year.

In comparison the number of salaried positions remained stable, with 341 in 2003, 358 in 2004 and 317 this year.

Figures for Pulse and GP confirm the trend. Only 94 adverts have been placed for partnerships in the period this year compared with 224 in 2004. Salaried posts now account for more than 60 per cent of the total.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said fewer GPs wanted to take on the responsibility of a partnership. He said: 'Quite a lot of GPs will go in as salaried ­ after two or three years they may then replace a partner.'

Dr Meldrum added that the ending of the basic practice allowance meant practices had to 'think a lot more' before committing to a new partner.

Dr Tony Mathie, chair of the RCGP's workforce committee, said more part-time working meant there was less need to advertise for doctors. 'You have the flexibility to see if existing doctors want to change the hours they work.'

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