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GPs accuse Government of 'empty promise' on training

GPs are accusing the Government of making an 'empty promise' over its high-profile U-turn on plans to slash £100 million from GP training budgets.

They are furious after promised growth of around 60 GP registrar places in London, which were thought to have been saved after a last-minute policy reverse by health minister John Hutton, have been axed.

Following a meeting of the London Deanery Partnership Board last week, GP trainers have been told that just 25 extra places will now be offered, and those will not be available until next February.

Mr Hutton had promised that GP training places were 'not in jeopardy'.

But Dr Stewart Drage, joint-chair of the GPC's workforce committee and joint-chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said although no places were being cut, the capital was not getting the extra growth it had been promised.

'When I heard about this U-turn I was sceptical and I thought it might be something like this. Yes the Government can say they will not cut places but they are not funding the growth we need,' he said. Dr Drage added that he is to urge the GPC to take action on the issue.

GPC negotiator Dr Brian Dunn said the decision 'would be devastating' for those practices desperate to fill vacant posts: 'It doesn't seem to me to be a good example of joined-up government.'

Dr Jeanine Smirl, a GP trainer in Highbury, north London, said the news had been a 'complete letdown – we were so excited when we heard about this U-turn, but it was an empty promise'.

She added: 'It will create a backlog of those wanting to take places and many of them will probably think to themselves that it's just too difficult to train as a GP and look elsewhere.'

Rosalyn Adleman, an applicant for a place in London, said: 'It's left us all really upset. I want to be a GP and to start my training in August, but that's no longer possible.'

A Department of Health spokesman said 365 places had been allocated for 2004/5. The figure was due to drop to 340. 'This not only fulfils the guarantee made by John Hutton but represents an increase on last year's target of 359.

By Joe Lepper

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