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It's churlish to say we have overperformed

Thousands of potential GPs are being denied the chance to join the profession because of

Government cuts to deanery funding.

Postgraduate deaneries have seen a massive 56 per cent jump in applicants between February 2005 and February 2006, new statistics show.

Some 5,588 people applied for VTS schemes starting in February 2006 compared with 3,590 the year before.

But despite the huge rise in the popularity of general practice, only 700 training places are available ­ meaning seven out of eight applicants will miss out. Deaneries want to expand places but have been forced to put development plans on hold because of a freeze in Government investment.

In this year's evidence to the Pay Review Body, the Department of Health said it believed there was now a 'healthy equilibrium' in doctor numbers.

Dr Malcolm Lewis, director of postgraduate GP education in Wales, said competition for places would raise standards.

But he added: 'I don't know what the UK Governments are doing about expanding GP training posts. If we're starting to see unemployment [among junior doctors] maybe the solutions are not there.'

Dr Catti Moss, a GP trainer in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire said deaneries had the capacity for more registrars but could not afford the staff. She added: 'It's not any lack of will to make it expand, it's through deanery cuts.'

The National GP Recruitment Office, which released the figures, said the rise was down people rolling over failed applications and rules making overseas applications easier.

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