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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)

  • Tick another nonsensical block. See 45 + patients in hours and another 25 OOH. 70 patients a day.
    Then, fill in forms as you tender for LES, DES or federate or prepare for appraisal, revalidation, CQC inspection.
    Await 24 hour responsibility for named GP elderly multimorbid patients, 8-8 surgeries and increased pensions and decreasing pay.
    Will anybody stay ?

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  • It is not only the number of training places not getting filled that fuels shortage of GPs. The ratio of women over men has swung heavily and there are more women than men training - most of the female trainees coming through our practices have not /cannot / will not be working full time on completion of Training, coupled with doctors taking early retirement is another issue that is leading to the shortage.

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  • @8:36am
    Unfortunately, you seem to be be totally oblivious of the situation. Firstly for you knowledge, IMGs don't seem to be lacking any communication skills and that is validated in three years of their training and by their GP trainers who are with them every day ( in real GP practice)L
    Lack of appeal , just one examiner in a room and reluctance of RCGP to video just shows who is black and who is white.

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  • Bob Hodges

    And they want practices to PAY to have trainees.......

    Just saying.....

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  • Una Coales

    Not only is it important to know GP training recruitment figures, but also how many GP trainees are being expelled at the end of their training. At the Northwestern deanery conference 5/2/2013, the following outcome 4 confirmed figures were announced:

    'NW Deanery (confirmed)
    2011. 29 total (20 due to CSA failure)
    2012. 43 total ( 30 due to CSA) 25 referred to the GMC'

    Each deanery should make public how many of their GP trainees have been expelled, and if so how many due to CSA, and how many have been referred to the GMC and why. Doctors applying to each deanery should be made aware of which deaneries have a higher CSA fail rate or a higher outcome 4 release rate.

    If 16 LETBs/Deaneries were to each fail 40 GP registrars/year, then we are potentially losing 640 GP trainees, at the end of training each year, who could have joined the workforce and eased the national NHS GP workforce crisis.

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  • Una Coales

    @9:37 Shaba here is the ethnicity breakdown for 2012 for GP selection.

    Successful white applicants numbered 1,996 and successful non white/other/undisclosed 1,326 (840 asians, 175 black, 75 chinese, 107 mixed). The total number selected were 3,322 total.

    It is therefore important to ensure the CSA exam is controlled for unconscious bias as over 1,000 GP trainees are of black or ethnic minority.

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  • Una Coales

    The implications for IMG applicants to GP training are very serious when the 43 released from NW were all IMGs! IMGs need to be asking each deanery, what % of your IMG GP trainees ever finish and get CCT? What % of your IMG GP trainees, do you end up giving an outcome 4 and releasing at the end of GP training?

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  • @3:42 PM This indeed is very disturbing. IMGs should think twice before entering this pathway where 70 % are bound to fail at the end of three years.

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  • I think its unfair to look at the CSA or CG as part of the cause of the recruitment problems within General Practice.
    As someone who passed the CSA comfortably I have to say it holds no value. It is no test of communication. There is no real evidence to validate it. As someone who has passed 2 other royal college exams I feel it is of little value. It tests such a narrow band of communication type it really is pointless.
    Still does not mean it is the main cause of current recruitment issues. I know CG has supported it, I imagine any elected chair of the RCGP would have been obliged to. In time the RCGP will get it right( hint just copy the MRCP or MRCS exams!). But it will have destroyed the lives of several dozen dedicated and excellent doctors.
    There are serious reasons why we're in trouble, collapsing income, rising pressure to take risks. Other parts of the NHS dumping their risks upon us and we have no institution to speak up for ourselves.
    As is the case in these situations, we play a major part in our own downfall. we de professionalize ourselves. We build hospital and GP structures for our own convenience. We run parts of the NHS in an economically un sustainable way and then moan there is no money in the system.
    Will we wake up, No as most part time salaried doctors in primary care and Hospital medicine just dpn't care and this will be the largest group of doctors within 10 yrs.
    Solution - stop being a martyr. Be honest and economically responsible.

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  • It is not suprising given the constant damaging news articles that keep comign out, and how these are all twisted to make NHS failings the GPs fault! I went to a BMA careers fair a few years ago, and was astonished to find about 3/4 stands were companies looking to move British doctors abroad. For the younger generation coming through, I suggest you dont hang around here!

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