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GP vacancies up as locums report 'unprecedented demand'

By Neha Pathak

Practices are finding it increasingly hard to fill GP vacancies, according to new figures from the NHS Information Centre, in the latest sign of recovery for the GP jobs market.

The sixth annual GP Practice Vacancies Survey shows that total GP vacancy rates in England have risen to 2.1%, compared to 1.6% last year.

The figures, which include both salaried and partner positions, show that the rate for longer-term vacancies, lasting three months or more, has also increased, from 0.3% in 2009 to 0.5% this year. Practices in the northeast of England are finding it hardest to fill positions.

It follows Pulse's report last October revealing that some practices had experienced a drop in applicants of up to 90%, as a surge in demand for GPs and restricted supply hit the recruitment market.

And locum agencies are also finding it harder to fill positions, with recruiters telling Pulse they have experienced 'unprecedented demand' in recent months.

The head of one national recruitment agency, who asked not to be named, told Pulse: 'This is the first time that we have found it so difficult to fill all the requests we have had from existing and new customers.'

'Demand has been increasing steadily since the spring of 2009. The reasons for requests range from cover for annual leave, maternity leave, study leave, sickness or replacing a GP who is undertaking local PCT business.'

'In our experience, there may indeed be more vacancies in general practice but our GPs tell us that most of these positions are salaried jobs and not partnerships, which are more attractive.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said his own data suggested an increase in vacancies of up to 25%, and he predicted the trend would accelerate as a result of the Government's commissioning proposals.

'I remain surprised that the figures are not showing an even slower rate of filling (vacancies),' he said.

GP vacancies are proving harder to fill, new figures show - credit The Italian Voice, Flickr GP vacancies are proving harder to fill, new figures show - credit The Italian Voice, Flickr

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