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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)

  • 'In 5-10 years time we'll be talking of not having enough training places to meet demand.'

    That will be because all GPs will be private, and we will be able to offer our own combination of cost, appointment duration, continutity, facilities and convenience to mutual benefit with our patients, who will be happy to pay the market rate for our expertise.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    I am still getting emails from IMGs who are facing their 4th or 5th CSA and seeking one to one tuition to complete GP training or face release with nothing to show for 3-4 years of GP training. I would suggest that if you want IMGs to come back to general practice training, you add CCTV for CSA stations and ensure 2 examiners mark each station.

    Without IMGs and BMEs, GP training vacancies will continue to widen as BMEs have historically comprised of up to 40% of GP training places.

    I have had to decline a request from a private lawyer representing an IMG GP trainee who wants one on one tuition for CSA, as I have met even British BME GP trainees who have been expelled after passing both akt and csa because they were failed in their eportfolio assessment by one subjective GP trainer. In my opinion, this suggests there are 3 ways in which a GP trainee may be blocked from completing his or her GP training. Prior to 2007, there was only summative assessment with its 99% pass rate. Enough said.

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  • I wonder hoe many of these 'hawkish trainers' who never did any of this stuff would have passed?

    Also, given how critical the situation is, it is worth talking to trainees from deaneries that are struggling to recruit / have high failure rates (indicative of poor or non existent support) to find out if there is bullying and abuse of trainees or poor training. There may be a swamp in need of draining.

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  • Why not to take trainees back who have been expelled and assess them through summarise process and let them make use of their three years my view CSA is the culprit for GP recruitment crisis, I guess IMG's do not want to take risk in their career as CSA is purely to pass white candidates and fail IMGs.
    Enough said!!!

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  • CSA is to blame 👎👎👎💯💯🔚🔜
    Any I am really laughing at situation

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • The whole structure on GP career progression need reassessing just having the MRCGP and thats it does not addresses the work force issues.Bring back summative assement.Improve the wokforce number.After that T&Cs need to drastically improve just to get youngsters through the door.The task to refine Primary case for the 21st century is a big ask with a failing NHS,a goverment hell bent on privatisation and organisation representing/regulating us who are self interested/bloated and out of touch.In reflection we are doomed.

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  • GP Training, in my opinion , is GARBAGE. Emphasis is only on consulting skills but not clinical skills. HOW UNSAFE .

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  • GP Trainers should take part of the blame for such vacancies in GP Training Posts - because Medical Students could be afraid of getting substandard training in General Practice. GPs do not end up having medico-legal problems because of poor communication skills but because of poor clinical skills.

    When a trainee asks a trainer a straightforward question about treatment of any clinical condition, instead of giving a straightforward answer, most trainers give stupid answers like '' Where do you think you can find the information'' instead of honestly saying '' Sorry I don't know the answer''

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  • ' GPs do not end up having medico-legal problems because of poor communication skills but because of poor clinical skills. '

    the CSA has many faults but that statement is simply not true.

    The issue of medico legal problems is complex and has as much to do with workload pressures, number of clinical sessions etc

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  • @ 1 July Una Coales

    It appears that the arrogance, appalling behaviour of the RCGP could be the single most important factor for the GP recruitment crisis and may be the major cause of NHS GPs becoming extinct.

    The RCGP refused to record and have two examiners for the CSA exam. Not just in the case of appeals and ignoring the fact that this would be unconstitutional in other major western countries (eg US, Canada), this demonstrates how out of touch and inept the RCGP are. This would have provided invaluable material to help the RCGP to sort out the mess.

    Yet again, the medical profession is being destroyed by a bunch of amateurs.

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