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Surprise drop in available GP training places across the UK

Exclusive Education bodies are reporting a dramatic decrease in vacant training posts for general practice, in a development that has puzzled GP leaders.

The GP National Recruitment Office has published details of vacancies across the country, showing that 20% of posts remain vacant, compared with 24% at the same stage last year.

In the North East, only ten of 192 positions are vacant for the next round of training – compared with 63% last year.

The BMA has said that it is seeking clarification from HEE on the surprising figures that come despite applications decreasing by 5% on last year, and the total number of available training posts increasing this year.

HEE has said it could not confirm the number of places filled, but according to the GP NRO website, there are 770 vacancies across the UK out of a total of 3,811 posts – 20% - following the end of the first round. This compares with a 24% vacancy rate last year for slightly fewer places.

HEE said that its marketing campaign – which featured a YouTube video of a GP signing a consent form for a patient to go skydiving – has been a ’notable success’. 

It has also introduced a ’golden hello’ scheme in some areas, which offered a £20,000 payment for trainees taking roles in hard-to-fill areas as part of its ten-point plan to boost the GP workforce. But, there were only 109 payments offered, and the majority of them were in the North West – where 36% of posts remained vacant, the highest in any part of the country.

A spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The most notable success in the first year of [the ten point plan] is the completion of a successful 10 week GP recruitment marketing campaign.

‘Evaluation of the campaign has shown a high level of engagement with the campaign from across the medical community: over 60,000 visits to the GPNRO website; 4,655 ‘engagements’ on Facebook (the predominant social media channel for trainees); estimated 9million impressions on Twitter.’

The BMA has said that it is contacting HEE about the issue. A BMA spokesperson said: ‘The BMA has asked HEE for clarification on these figures, we do need to be clear about the recruitment challenge facing general practice which in our view remains substantial.’

Dr Chris Hewitt, chief executive of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland LMC, said that the drop in vacancies was ’potentially good news’.

He added: ’In 2012 the East Midlands had 16 applicants for every ten vacancies for GP training. By 2015 this had fallen to 8 applicants for every ten vacancies.’

’Perhaps in the East Midlands this is down to Leicester City Football Club putting the region on the map or perhaps these early statistics are just too good to be true.’ 

Surprise figures buck recent trends

A health minister last week admitted that there is a ‘risk’ around whether the Government will achieve its commitment to find 10,000 new GP or GP equivalents, and that failure to achieve the target would make it ‘difficult to deliver our ambitions’.

Lord Prior – who was chair of the CQC before becoming minister for NHS productivity last year – has cast doubt on health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s commitments on GP numbers, which included increasing the workforce by 5,000 GPs by 2020.

It came after leaked figures obtained by Pulse revealed that despite a national advertising campaign aimed at promoting general practice as a career, the proportion of doctors applying for GP specialty training starting in August 2016 has reached a record low.

Last year, the first application round of GP training received 5,112 applications for 3,609 places but this only delivered 2,769 trainees in 2015 despite three application rounds and changes to allow failed applicants to reapply.

Readers' comments (19)

  • Would anyone be surprised if all this turned out to be spin?

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  • Well you never..

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  • Or is it Mr Hunt's cunning plan to get those 5000 gp's by driving all the junior doctors away from secondary care? 3 days of strikes that he blames on the marxist BMA and hits his quota? Genius

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) Credibility of figures and statistics quoted by this government has gone poor . Even Daily Mail's weekend headline was labelling the so many billions promised by this government around the general election as 'con'. Really it is difficult what to believe from more figures thrown out by its various departments . I tend to go along with those with NAO or perhaps PAC
    (2) To choose the lesser evil between the two if these youngsters really have to choose and stay. Perhaps , the current row over junior doctors' working hours and pay is shifting the tide slightly . Yes, yes , one can also come up with a conspiracy theory .
    (3) But no matter what , it is not enough to meet the demand and I do believe certain parts of country are a lot worse than the average situation . Golden Hello is only possible if a bit more money is floating around .

    HEE , keep the humility and please don't claim this a 'huge success' . As the new X-File TV series' slogan said' The truth is STILL out there'.......,.

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  • It does look remarkably suspect - we host medical school trainees in their 4th year - and this year, for the first time, we have seen a reduction in the number of students we have been asked to host (usually 16 - this year 12).
    That, then, potentially represents the position 4 years ago when recruitment numbers fell (and maybe also reflects recent years bad press which has resulted in trainees dropping out).
    Still worth bearing in mind these students are 3 years away before they can opt for GP.
    If that low level of new doctors is mirrored elsewhere then it still represents a major problem of less doctors being available to replace current expected retirees let alone increase the workforce.
    Don't, therefore, let this news overshadow the dire straits we are in..........

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  • Yet again, lies damned lies and statistics.

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  • I understand that some program directors have been asked to reconsider candidates that had failed in years past to see if its possible to train them again. could this have put up the numbers? God help us.

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  • Or practices looking at workload and saying no thanks to training, reducing overall availability, irrespective of vacant or otherwise.

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  • Lies, more lies and statistics!!!
    Somethings make sense others do not. This is most certainly the latter, unless junior doctors have twigged that they are more likely to get in Australia if they are gps first!

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  • Causality has not been established with the £100k HEE campaign. They really are treating junior doctors as dumb drones if they think that is what has change things.
    More likely hospital T&Cs have just deteriorated such that junior docs want to complete training asap.

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