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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)


Related images

  • Krishna Kasaraneni

Readers' comments (78)

  • CG - I couldn't care if you were born on Mars, that is irrelevant. But the strong impression you gave as RCGP chair was that you ingratiated yourself to the DOH, supped with devil and left General Practice in a far worse state by the time you left.

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  • @anonymous 2:04pm.
    I am not a fan of Dr Gerada at all but it borders on childishness for you to post as anonymous and accuse her of contributing to the reduction of GP numbers without any evidence. Let us maintain our professionalism.
    I am IMG and I have my opinions on the CSA but it is not responsible for the crisis in general practice .

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  • Any young doctor with a little bit of sense would/should stay clear of GP

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  • RCGP may have been ineffective in protecting us, but it did not set out to damage our status and moral as Jeremy Hunt and his colleagues clearly did and are still doing. Do not blame Clare Gerada,for the current crisis, lay the blame where it belongs, with ill informed politicians who were too dumb to see where their policies would lead. But we knew !

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  • The point is that CH may not be entirely blamed but has played a major role in tarnishing the profession (that's the bitter reality).
    IMGS have always been the backbone of NHS and CG as chair of RCGP has been very vocal about her opinion on IMGs and has created this division.
    This article is re recruitment crisis ( where the major chunk of applicants were IMSs)

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  • 1:08pm
    Totally agree with you. Exit strategy planned- i feel angry and saddened that I am only 50 and have so much to give to my job but am not prepared to continue under the current state of general practice. Many of my hard working colleagues are drowning with no light from those that are supposed to be supporting us.

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  • I can honestly say at the age of 42 that I regret this job every day for the last 2yrs. Unmanageable workload, complete dumping ground for secondary care, total morale drain from press daily….. if you are looking at training run away - no-one in GP is fighting your corner.

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  • I fully agree with 6.10 pm. I feel absolutely the same. I'm 45 a trainer and have had my shift at the GP Selection Centre. I felt sorry for each and every one of them - I wished I could have put a sticker on my forehead saying 'DON'T DO IT'.
    Regarding Clare Gerada I have always admired her slightly childish enthusiasm but I'm not convinced this has helped or hindered General Practice's cause and I do feel she's always been on a different planet.
    However a lot of the criticism above is unfair and malicious. Don't think she deserves that.
    The issue with IMGs is much more engrained within the system. I feel they do have a point though.

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  • I am sure GP shortage is multifactorial but RCGP in general and Clare gerada in particular have single handedly managed to deter Med students specially IMG's to apply for General Practice. Well done Clare Gerada
    I hope if Maureen Baker can do something to prevent this trend

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