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Revealed: 15% drop in GP training applications set to exacerbate recruitment crisis

Exclusive Applications for postgraduate GP specialty training have dropped by 15% this year putting Government targets to boost GP numbers at risk, Pulse has learnt.

Official figures due to be published imminently will show almost 1,000 fewer trainees expressing an interest in general practice across the UK, compared with 2013, striking a huge blow to the Government’s attempts to attract 3,250 new GPs a year in England by 2015.

The 15% drop in applications - announced by the GP National Recruitment Office at an internal meeting of education directors - and revealed to Pulse by a senior source close to the discussions, are likely to show there were around 5,100 applications across the UK, compared with 6,031 last year.

If the reduction is consistent across the UK, this would translate to around 4,450 applications in England.

This dramatic reduction reverses a trend of increased numbers of applications since 2011, when there were 5,590 applications, compared with 5,915 in 2012.

The GPC said the figures, announced at a recent meeting of the Committee of GP Education Directors (COGPED), could further exacerbate the current GP recruitment crisis across the UK.

The figures on applications come after Pulse revealed earlier this week that education bosses are looking to cap training numbers in other specialties in future years to push more people into general practice.

In 2013, despite an increase in the number of applications, the number of medical graduates actually starting a GP placement in England only increased by 95 to 2,764, still well short of the Government’s targets.

This year the fall in applications is likely to make a big difference as typically a quarter of the applicants to GP training traditionally fail to make the cut after assessment, and some applications will be made by trainees who will take up other training in another specialty.

Also the figures are also distorted by high numbers of applications in areas such as London, with northern deaneries more likely to be hit hard by the drop in applications.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GP trainees subcommittee, confirmed the 15% figure was correct and that he was concerned about its affect on GP trainee numbers.

He said: ‘We do not know why the figures have gone down. We want to know whether this is a one-off, or is a general trend of numbers going down? If it is, we are in big trouble.

‘We need to get to the 3,250 figure. We need real action to promote general practice. That is just not happening at the moment…. Ten years on, we are still no closer to this target.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘These figures are extremely worrying when you consider the Government’s own ambition to significantly increase GP workforce to match its aspirations for delivering care outside hospitals.

‘It is very worrying that general practice is not being seen as an attractive career option and that is because that successive years of disinvestment has resulted in a workforce that is overstretched, lacking in morale and it does not paint an attractive picture for doctors to enter the profession. This needs to be turned around.’  

But a spokesperson for Health Education England said they were still on track to meet their targets on GP numbers: ‘Our mandate requires us to increase the number of GP ST1 training places to 3,250 by next year and we are on track to deliver that. The process for recruitment to posts this year is ongoing.’


Number of applications (versus those filled)

2014 - 5,100 (tbd)

20013 - 6,031 (3237)

2012 - 5,915 (3152)

2011 - 5,590 (3144)

2010 - 5,654 (3372)


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  • Krishna Kasaraneni

Readers' comments (78)

  • The GP training structure is pathetic, you may end up with nothing even if you put your whole soul into it. Actors deciding whether you are good enough or not. Its like playing Russian roulette for IMGs with an organization like RCGP incharge

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  • It's not just IMGs. Why would you choose to be a GP now - all that's in it is contempt from the govt, hospital colleagues, some patients, the right win elements of the press, falling pay/hiking pensions and for what? More work and less respect. I for one am questioning my chosen path

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  • GP life in the UK is no longer compatible with a reasonable social life, except for some trainers and PDs who are not at the frontline and probably for those who are not seeing any patients.
    GP trainee life is even more pathetic right from selection and until the CSA.
    There are 50,000 family doctors shortage expected in USA by 2020. I would advise any one at the beginning of the career, particularly IMG to prepare for USMLE and get ready to land in the land of opportunity.

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  • For the record
    I was not born in UK
    My parents where not born in UK
    My grandparents were not born in UK

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  • @CG 12:28
    Even than you managed to do the damage as RCGP Chair

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  • Dear Dr Gerada,
    Actions speak louder than words!
    Policies by RCGP while you were Chair clearly demonstrates your stance. The Buck stops here.

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  • It is not fair to blame Clare for this crisis. There are clearly strongly held views about IMGs and the RCgP exam and that will be decided legally.
    The crisis is far wider than that. It is due to the government ( not Clare) making the working lives of GPs miserable and the constant attacks from the press.

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  • Dear Dr Gerada
    You are not still IMG and you graduated from the UCL, if I am right. I really respect the hard work your father did as IMG. Several IMG doctors like your dad are struggling to bring their child as you because of the current situation in GP training and GP life

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  • Free market economics of jobs.Treat us badly make General Practice not a nice place to be.Fewer new recruits to the frontline.Combine this with a haemorrhage of experienced GPs in their 50's 10 years too early and we have a perfect storm.The government cant fight the demographics of General Practice by their management over the past few years.Anyone have any idea how many of our bretheren have took retirment in the last year.I would be very interested to know.I really hope the poison this Government has sown comes back to haunt them.They cannot buck the market.Best of luck to everyone.

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  • I think that The government will make life miserable until they get rid of partnerships and then offer better terms to the people they want to run general practice.
    Their expectation is that GPs will then flood back when the terms on offer are better.
    Good luck to them.

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