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The waiting game

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)

  • Pay them properly and they will come .

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  • Odd that some people seem to view the shortfall as perfectly acceptable. I'm due to retire in 4 years and I begin to wonder who is going to look after my patients! Having finished tidying up the paperwork after a duty doctor day at 23.42 last evening, I'm pretty sure it won't be me!!

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  • Gosh, I'm gob smacked!

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  • Im 34 and left this overflowing cesspool 2.5years ago for a life abroad; Worked somewhere in the middle of the country dealing with rif raf day in day out and had had enough! worryingly for the partnership I was not replaced and ive found out this week that 2 of the existing partners have retired in the last 2 weeks!

    Its now April and the story was that round about now many of the seniors 60+ would be retiring. Id heard stories about pension contributions forcing this upon a few but am now beginning to wonder if this storm is going to provoke Armageddon and a total collapse of primary care!!!! GP land seems to be being hammered every which way but loose-- retirements/ emigrating newbies (and increasingly mid career folk) and now a dearth of cannon fodder entering the mad house!!

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  • T Roscoe

    The difficulty of recruiting is already causing problems. The over 60s are not the only ones going. at least 6 GPs aged 55 have retired in Sheffield in the last 12 months.

    I know of another three in S Yorks who were at University with me who are also going . This is next door to tthe worst hit area with 60% VACANCIES in Derbyshire

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  • Yes general practice in the NHS is falling apart. NHSE Is now having a very difficult time with practices collapsing. The domino perfect is only just starting. Give it another six months and OMG.

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  • You need 1 FTE GP for approx 1800-2000 patients (depending on demographics). Anything above this tends to compromise care. At the end of the day it's difficult to get away from this fact.

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  • there isn't any money left - more efficiency savings 'have' to be made.

    nope - expect more work, more risk, more expenses for less pay. This is hardly a positive recruitment scenario.

    there are many many other jobs which pay more for less risk and effort. Medical students are not silly (well not all of them) and are just being sensible by avoiding general practice.

    In fact it's interesting that none of the leadership organisations want to talk about the future terms and conditions or offer any gurantees as they know things are going to get a lot worse.

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  • Its not rocket science really is it? The way primary care gets battered and manipulated for political gain. Just means med students and FY docs arent stupid. Implication of all this means that we are going to be left with a lots of people in GP training who actually dont want to be a GP, they jsut couldnt get into their job of choice first time. I think this will result in those "ending up"on a GP scheme being the majority of trainees rather than those actively choosing GP resulting in traineesleaving before completion as they will continue to apply for their specialty fo choice next time around. Just increasing the number of people in GP tranining isnt the answer (not that the can manage that from the look of things)

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