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Recruitment crisis as GPs vanish from jobs market

By Nigel Praities

Practices are finding it virtually impossible to fill salaried and locum vacancies as a surge in demand for GPs and restricted supply hits the recruitment market, Pulse can reveal.

GPs are reporting a drop in applicants of up to 90% in the past 12 months and are struggling to find suitably qualified applicants for salaried posts.

Recruitment consultants say it has been a ‘completely unprecedented' year, with a rising number of vacancies and fewer doctors on their books.

A series of factors appears to be behind the crash in job applicants, including a lack of attractive partnership positions, a proliferation of extended-hours shifts and the rival attractions of the private sector, leading to major shortages in GPs available for work.

RCGP vice-chair Dr Clare Gerada, who runs a number of large practices in south London, said she had struggled to fill salaried positions after applications fell from an average of 50 or 60 for one position to around one or two.

‘Something has changed in the past year,' she said. ‘I suspect it is a combination of extended hours and the cohort of young women coming through. Young women get pregnant and want to come back part-time.'

Paul Booth, director of C&B Locums, said it had seen nearly a 60% drop in the number of doctors applying for jobs compared with last year: ‘We are advertising in the same places, but have noticed a huge reduction in candidates. This time last year we were getting 18 doctors a week showing interest, and in the same week this year there were eight,' he said.

More than 50 GP-led health centres have opened in the past year and in July 2009 77% of practices were offering extended hours.

Tom Stewart, director of recruitment agency Cimarron, said: ‘From February to August was an unprecedentedly busy time. For the first time we couldn't find enough doctors to keep customers happy.'

‘Many GPs have already got a salaried job and are not willing to move unless they can get a principal position.'

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said he had seen a 40% increase in bookings in his area – with some GPs choosing to work for the private sector: ‘At private providers you can get a fairly substantive post and there isn't much hierarchy.'

RCGP vice-chair Dr Clare Gerada: 'Something has changed in the past year' RCGP vice-chair Dr Clare Gerada: 'Something has changed in the past year' How times have changed

• A year ago the BMA warned of a ‘jobs desert' in major cities as applicants far outnumbered vacancies
• The DH used NHS figures showing no change in the three-month vacancy rate for GPs as part of its justification for a pay freeze for next year
• But now recruitment agencies are saying demand for salaried GPs and locums is outstripping supply, with a 40% increase in bookings in some areas
• Some GP leaders report long applicant lists, but others warn the pool of good GPs has dried up and they struggle to fill vacancies

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