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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

Figures show widening shortfall in GP training with 20% of places unfilled

A fifth of GP training places in the UK remain unfilled after two rounds of recruitment according to official figures obtained by Pulse, raising serious questions about Government’s promises to increase the GP workforce.

Data supplied by NHS Education Scotland show that just 80% of the 3,641 available training places across the UK have been filled ahead of the August training intake.

Education bosses in England have refused to confirm that the figures are correct, but they come shortly after the health secretary rolled back on his pre-election commitment to introduce an 5,000 additional GPs by 2020, saying this was only a ‘maximum’.

The figures are disastrous for education bosses and mark a widening shortfall in filled GP training places.

Last year, at the same stage, around 13% of places remained unfilled in England and 11% in Scotland after the unprecedented third round of recruitment - a situation that the GPC described as the ‘worst ever’.

The shortfall comes despite the health secretary boasting there had been 300 more applications to GP training this year in his ‘new deal’ speech, although Pulse later revealed this was because failed applicants had been allowed to retake entry exams.

According to the figures, around 2,918 places have been filled across the UK so far, with a third round of recruitment in England to follow.

No figures were available for England or Wales, but Scotland have filled just 240 of the 305 GP training places on offer, 79% of the total and increase of just 9% on the first round.

Health Education England has yet to publish the vacancies for GPST1 recruitment in England despite the final deadline for training place uptake having passed on 11 June, but these UK-wide figures suggest it will struggle to meet its current target of 3,250 graduates entering general practice by 2016 and there will also be shortfalls a

The Government has been under pressure to provide evidence of how it will achieve it’s pledges to drastically increase GP numbers in England, including a pre-election pledge of 5,000 new GPs by 2020, and it’s already delayed target of 3,250 medical students going into GP training by a year.

Pulse revealed last week that Jeremy Hunt has begun to distance himself from the election promise of 5,000 new GPs when, at the announcement of the ‘new deal for general practice’ two weeks ago, he said: ‘We are leaving some flexibility [in the target] because in some parts of the country it is very hard to recruit GPs.’

And last week he added that 5,000 looked like the ‘maximum’ achievable by 2020.

The DH declined to comment on today’s figures, adding the breakdown of figures for England would be available ‘shortly’.

NHS Education Scotland said that the remaining training places will still be made available for ongoing recruitment with local training boards, and a third round of recruitment will be launched in August for a February 2016 start date.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC workforce and training subcommittee, told Pulse the figures were of ‘significant concern’ to the GPC and said the downward trend in recruitment would not reverse until young doctors could see GPs workload improving and GPs enjoying their work.

He added: ‘Is it surprising that they’re worse than last year? No, because realistically there hasn’t been a great deal of investment – in terms of making things better for general practice- in the last four months, or prior to that.’

‘If last year was the worst ever, this is even worse.’

‘Even when the concept of the new deal was announced with routine seven day working and so on, it goes to show we don’t even have the workforce at present to deal with the normal demands of general practice.’

Deputy chair of GPC Scotland Dr Andrew Buist told Pulse he hoped this would be a wake-up call for politicians.

He said: ‘I hope the Government now are waking up that they’ve got a very, very significant problem on their hands. The figures today don’t really come as a great shock, we knew this was happening.’

‘They really need to start talking up general practice, that’s one of the reasons things are so bad, they’ve been talking us down for the best part of eight years and morale is low. The young doctors, and medical students pick up on that.’

Readers' comments (55)

  • It's not a cyclical phenomenon, it's a downward spiral.

    The point being that, eventually, you hit the ground.

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  • If 20% places are not filled, then there will be 20% less GPs, so the market rate for locum GPs could go up by 20%. So its time to start doing some locum sessions.

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  • I don't think Hunt knows what to do either. It is quite apparent that Osborne will not allow any further increase in finance for the NHS. Most hospital trusts are now in financial arrears. It is like a train hitting the buffers in slow motion.

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  • Vinci Ho

    To achieve something like this, you need people to cooperate ,mate . Common sense.
    The relationship between medical professionals particularly GPs and the government is historically low. Who has the biggest responsibility ? Some of you may say 'it is you guys moaning on Pulse and social media putting people off!' . Really? Have you watched some of these movies about feudal Japan when government officials failed their job and the emperor? Of course , we are now in civilisation with democracy but what should happen to these ministers , you think?

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  • Daily wail latest:
    Ministers leaving for Australia, New Zealand and Canada where the gravy train has as yet unexploited true potential!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Canada is blessed with truly unhealthy levels of radioactivity.

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  • The remaining 20% of the GP Training places should immediately be filled in by our future ''Physician Assistants'' and there should be rigourous training for them for three years in a GP surgery and they should be given MRCP (Member of Royal College of Physician assitants) degrees after their training.

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  • The Profession must look at making GP training less annoying, futile and toxic. Our Educators are partly responsible for this crisis.

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  • no big deal

    there is no crisis simply because the cardigan wearers are still doing the job i.e. more patients are being seen for less money i.e. the government has done well and made the system more efficient.

    when patients have to wait months for a GP appointment or there is no local GP service then folks will take interest so really this is no news.

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  • Anonymous @12.20

    I agree with you. Until patients have to wait 4 to 6 weeks for a GP appointment AND patients are complaining AND blaming the Tories, nothing will happen. Hunt et al along with the media will still try and make out that the NHS needs to become more efficient. IF at that time the public refuses to believe the spin, then and only then more resources may be available. On the other hand co-payment may be brought in. Though this would be a huge vote loser. What is more likely is that there will be a development of further private primary healthcare services. That is why the GPC should currently be negotiating private primary health care insurance packages that we could then offer our patients

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