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Third of GP trainee positions remain unfilled across the UK following first round of recruitment

Exclusive Around 30% of GP training places across the UK remained unfilled following the first round of recruitment, with the worst-affected areas seeing vacancy rates of up to 65%, Pulse can reveal.

Figures for the first round of recruitment, revealed on the GP National Recruitment Office website, show that more than 60% of positions in the East Midlands and North East of England remain unfilled.

Only London and Northern Ireland have filled all their positions after the first round of recruitment and two more - Kent, Surrey & Sussex and Thames Valley - have said they are likely to have filled their places by now.

Overall, there is a 29% vacancy rate across the UK compared with 8% of places in 2013, the last year figures for this round were available.

There are normally two rounds of GP trainee recruitment, but Health Education England was forced to instigate an unprecedented third round last year following poor take-up rates - a move that is likely to occur again this year.

GP leaders in the worst affected regions have said they think it is unlikely these positions will be filled by August.

It comes after Pulse revealed earlier in the year that applications for GP training had dropped, for the second successive year, by 6%.

This is the latest setback in Health Education England’s attempts to recruit 3,250 GP trainees a year by 2016, a deadline that has already been pushed back a year after application rates tumbled in 2014, and will further heap pressure on GP recruitment.

HEE could not provide a breakdown of the vacancy rates after last year’s round 1 intake but there was a 12% shortfall by the end of the whole recruitment process, despite the unprecedented third round of recruitment, labelled ‘desperate’ by GP leaders

NHS England, along with HEE, the BMA and RCGP recently launched a 10 point plan to tackle GP recruitment along with retaining the existing workforce and coaxing those who have left the profession to return.

But GP leaders say minor changes won’t suffice and a contract overhaul is needed to improve general practice’s stock.

Dr John Ashcroft, an executive officer of Derby and Derbyshire LMC in the hard hit East Midlands, told Pulse the whole situation was ‘depressing’ and that 20 ago he and his wife - both East Midlands alumni – had to fight for places.

He added: ‘We need a new contract, the contract isn’t fit for purpose, they talk about “you need extra doctors”… we keep hearing the talk, but we’re not really seeing anything to really make a difference. That ultimately means money, doesn’t it?

‘Words are cheap, money counts. If they really recognise the importance of general practice, somebody’s got to find some real money to put in there, otherwise it’s going to keep on getting worse.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s education, training & workforce subcommittee, told Pulse: ‘I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say the last two years for general practice recruitment haven’t been that great, simple as that.’

‘The approach that Health Education England and NHS England have taken recently… to listen to [the BMA’s] concerns and put measures in place to try and address that has been a welcome change.’

However, he added that these changes had come too late to impact on the 2015 recruitment figures, but that planning would be ‘much better’ next year.

Health Education England said it was unable to comment until the end of the pre-election ‘purdah’ period.

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Readers' comments (39)

  • Just finished GP training and I'm out -- no longer need to deal with the daily riff-Raff, QOF, unreasonable demands, people who almost enjoy playing the 'sick role' and take no responsibility whatsoever..
    ..any prospective trainees...Do not go into GP training

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  • Is anyone shocked?
    International trainees reluctant to waste 3 years.
    FY2s realising that their hospital colleagues hold the primary care doctors in low regard.
    Medical students realise that becoming a GP is a sign of failure.
    A capricious GMC holding GPs responsible for the consequences of poor resources.
    Trainees passing on to their colleagues that the hours are dreadful, during and after training.
    Perhaps they realise that when they qualify as a 'consultant in general practice' they are paid £20,000 less than hospital consultants with no clinical excellence awards.
    Perhaps they realise that the ship is about to sink and would prefer to be on the quayside than scrabbling for lifeboats.
    Who knows?

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  • What a surprise! RCGP have done a wonderful job with new CSA exam conduction. Moreover, the tribunal cleared the RCGP of any wrongdoing.
    A big chunk of candidates of GP Recruitment have traditionally been IMGs. They see what is going on at Euston Square, they are not fools to go to "guillotine" like the author of this comment. I wonder what is the percentage of IMG applicants compared to previous years?

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  • This really isn't a CSA issue..the RCGP cannot and should not lower standards of CSA just to fit in with a political agenda...yes, many IMGs have failed CSA but these very same IMGs (and even some local candidates for that matter), have also failed to gained their first choice of speciality (usually Orthopedics, surgery, ENT) by my experience. Being a doctor should not automatically qualify you to be a GP...Focus on the working conditions of GPs!! And the utter dross that wastes our time sometimes

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  • @ 1.54 pm
    Whats wrong with working conditions? You get compensated generously to the value you bring to the work place comparative to the hospital consultants or senior registrar level work in the hospital.Shorter training time, no vigorous exams to pass,negligible unsocial hours, if you are not sure about a diagnosis ot management send them to A&E or refer to a specialty.Yet you complain.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    no vigorous exams to pass

    moron. Troll.

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  • @ 8.14pm - if GP is so picture perfect as you describe, why oh why do we then have a recruitment crisis?? Think about this for a second or two!

    It's far from ' no unsociable hours' - most GPs I know regularly work 12 hour days, Secondly we cannot simply refer everything if we are uncertain..in many cases referral is not warranted (just lots of social dross that the patients themselves can only sort out but refuse to do so). I haven't even mentioned the pointless bean counting exercises imposed on us..add in to that unrealistic patient demands, having to firefight those who demand instant referral for minor ailments and the riff raff who simply refuse to change their lifestyle..I'm not saying all GPs are perfect; I think the giving up of OOH has lowered the respect for our profession and I too have come acros many 'lazy GPs' (and hospital condultants for that matter) but please..don't knock us all

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  • So we still have some sensible folk in our midst, who on earth would want to be a GP in todays climate … only fools!

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  • What happen to GP,a respectable and trusted profession,political ping pong street joke.
    Some thing terrible or bad had happen to GP.

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