Registrars face axe in deanery budget cuts
By Rob Finch
Deaneries are being forced to consider cuts to GP registrar posts because of a threatened 10 per cent cut in their budgets.
Strategic health authorities have asked deaneries to prepare for cuts in expectation of the Government slashing investment in training to help ease NHS deficits.
The latest reductions would come as yet another blow to GP training, with deaneries already having made GP tutor posts redundant and stopped funding for new flexible careers scheme places.
Professor Graham Winyard, chair of the conference of postgraduate medical deans, said deaneries had been instructed by their local SHAs to prepare for a 10 per cent cut.
He said: 'Deaneries will have discussed these options with trusts although no actions will be taken until the final allocations are known.
'It is unfortunate the only way to manage such a reduction would be to cut numbers of training posts despite the pressures this will cause in trusts.'
Dr Jo Hilborne, chair of the BMA's junior doctors committee, said budget cuts were coming at 'the worst possible time' for deaneries.
She said it was 'very likely' that GP registrar posts would be reduced this year.
'GP registrars are supernumerary and always a soft target for cutting because no one's going to jump up and down about it like they would in hospital.'
A Department of Health spokeswoman dismissed talk of cuts as 'speculation' because multi-professional education and training funding for 2006/7 had yet to be decided.
But Dr Hilborne denounced this line, arguing the funding announcement would be too late because deaneries had clearly begun to make plans for reduced funding already.
The GPC also reported that at a recent meeting health minister Lord Warner admitted training tended to be a 'soft touch' when budgets were tight.
Dr Mayur Lakhani, chair of the RCGP, said the move would be 'shortsighted'. He said: 'We will need more good-quality GPs to implement the White Paper.'
Dr Richard Stokell, a GP trainer in Birkenhead, Merseyside, said: 'It's difficult to see how the quality can continue without losing registrars.'