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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)

  • This is a recruitment crisis, so what is needed is improvement in pay and conditions to make the job attractive - that means a significant hike in pay and abolishing the red tape that makes the job insufferable - QoF/CQC/revalidation.

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  • Agree with above. Doctors in the unpopular and risks areas (A+E/MAU/GP) need this to be relfected in their pay. In the private sector this would be recognised immediately - suppy and demand.

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  • Impose another contract on medical students. They must work in GP land.
    I, as a burnt out, worked to the bone GP am actually amazed that 80% posts are filled. Last night, after 45 consultations,11 phone calls, 200+ repeat and acute scripts and over a 100 blood tests, never mind the vandalised window or the plumbing crashing, I went home with my eyes googling.
    I cannot understand anybody who is not a GP already and cannot leave, wanting to become one.
    There must be other parts of the UK that are sane, because my part is slowly becoming insane.

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  • Banking has to be the most tedious ,god forsaken , leprous job in the world where psychopathy is a useful trait. However, it is not short of recruits . Of course large wads of cash make it seem attractive . What we need is a scientific trial . Group 1 is given a 50 % increase in funds and Group 2 is given some extra training and encouragement . Speculating wildly I suspect group 1 would attract more recruits . If this proves to be born out by this pilot then apply it universally. At least we will find out if money really matters .

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  • I'm a little shocked at how many have taken up placements.

    However I guess many many will be planning families and have already decided what sort of working pattern they will do.

    A useful study would be to survey their intentions going into gp training. How many potential full timers are there? they're the ones we need!

    once we take take that into account we're going to be nearer 50% in terms of potential gp time

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  • It might be worth the GMC talking to trainees ideally who have left certain training schemes that are under-filled. There may be a link between serious bullying and abuse of trainees and deaneries that have unfilled places.

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  • Dumping some of the bureaucratic nonsense, such as Appraisal and Revalidation, would help.

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  • GPs are unenviable profession,unprotected by BMA and inadequately by Medical Defence bodies.
    NHS imposes unworkable practices on GPs;a qualified bank practice nurse is replaced by a Practice nurse in training.
    Trainee receptionists are used posing as administrators.
    A functional EMIS IT system is replaced by a thrice in a consultation freezing/collapsing ALTGP system.
    When the GP complains his career is destroyed by referring him to The GMC.Is this British Justice!
    GMC MTS take NHs complaints seriously ignoring the written rebuttal presented by The GP.
    When The GP has because of NHS persecutions not earned as a GP expect him to travel to Manchester unprotected by his defence body.The Defence body had got him reinstalled as a Specialist gP and after that refused to continue protecting him

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  • Anonymous | Salaried GP | 01 July 2015 11:14am

    more bad news
    *sigh*
    *looks at picture of kangaroo on desk*



    @11:14

    Your comment is fantastic and hilarious, so I have repeated it.

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  • Better to have a picture of a kangaroo on your desk than woking in the outback with a real one on your desk! Or is it?

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