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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)

  • Just back from the GP Selection Process. A lot of excellent candidates, some average ones and quite a few terrible ones.
    I am an IMG myself, but with as little bias as I can muster, the vast majority of the terrible ones were IMGs. Communication, consultation, cultures and language are somewhat linked and not really racist or unfair.
    Being a GP has become the most complex and challenging specialty in the NHS ( something a non GP will never understand) and even being average won't prepare you for the job in hand.
    I got 15 years left and I cannot see many of today's candidates lasting another 40 in the job we currently do.

    Have fun whilst it lasts.

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  • @11.15am
    Thanks for your comment about IMG. I am an IMG and expelled from training after 4 CSA attempts. I still agree with you that most terrible ones are IMG. However, this is the selection process and is a rigorous process and you all weed out the bad apple here, then give 3-4 years supervised training... then advised them to sit the CSA. Now we see the huge differential pass rate between white female and Asian/black IMG male(98% and 20%).Please remember that these doctors was filtered already once at PLAB/IELTS.
    In other Royal College exams, we do not have any of these barriers before we sit( we can sit from India/Nigeria), but the difference in pass rate is low
    Can you explain these figures as trainer/PD

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  • Undeniably the dwindling recruitment number is linked to the way RCGP treats GP trainees. Just revisit the way CSA is deigned and the number of attempts allowed to sit in the test. Trainees contemplates to join the scheme because it is risky investment, both in terms of time and resources. Often at the end of your three years if you have not passed your four attempts then your are left in the total vacuum. The dreadful issue here actors are used at the CSA and their interpretations are different, so often you fail by 1 mark. RCGP dismisses the fact that GP is a General Practitioner and not Surgeon.

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  • Totally agree with @11.15.
    I am an experienced MRCGP DRCOG AFOM GP and, sorry, but some IMGs have the most appalling communications skills.
    I would not want them as my GP, just as a patient in India or Nigeria would not want a white male such as me as their GP.
    It's just the way the world works, so don't jump on the racist bandwagon as an excuse for your severe inadequacies, perhaps better to practise in your own country.
    This is the only issue for which the much maligned RCGP (stopped paying them 20 years ago, money well saved) has my support.

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  • OK, so @ 7.10 go to the USA and work there for a living instead of moaning about the appropriately selective UK

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  • Anonymous 7:33pm : I do think you miss several points and actually do cross over into racism.

    All GP trainees go through a rigorous selection procedure and then they are assessed across several specialties and also by a GP trainer. The CSA exam does not test anything that holds up in terms of validation.

    One of the mistakes we are making is to pretend that all Doctors should be clones, as if there is only one correct way to consult or deal with the variety of patients and concerns they hold. The CSA is the RCGP culturally biased way of trying to create clones. Instead of recognizing the richness of the consultation it is a short sighted testing system. Look at the other college exams, look at european or US higher postgrad exams, they concentrate on core knowledge with some variation in different countries allowing for some but limited testing of communication. But a single communication style should not be the preferred 'fashion of the month', which is what the CSA effectively promotes.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Yup- you youngsters would be doing us all a great favour, as well as yourselves, by emigrating if you can.
    AS for me and my wife, we are leaving 2 years early, 2.5 in my case and because we also do not trust the lay-led GMC, nor do we wish to go through meaningless and demeaning cycles of appraisal and re-validation, to "prove" * we are not murdering psychopaths, we are probably going to de-register and not be around to do locums and OOH.

    * Appraisal, as we know, would be a walk-over for a murdering psychopath.

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