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A faulty production line

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)

  • Well there's a surprise!

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  • I agree with the above. The Daily Mail have certainly "botched" their "cunning strategy to bully GPs".

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  • Yes agreed...

    the only April "fool" around is THE DAILY MAIL !!

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  • True...the quality of journalism in THE DAILY MAIL is a "joke".

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  • Peter Swinyard

    There is an insidious pressure on younger doctors to avoid general practice, which after 30+ years I still believe to be the most interesting and satisfying speciality in medicine (give or take paperwork, over-regulation and political pressures).
    Until medical schools start promoting the only general physicians for all ages (the geriatricians do a good job for the over 65s), we may be on a loser.

    It makes a mockery of all the over-promising of the political parties for more doctors. Or was that a "pledge"?.......

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  • 'Pledge' wipes the crap away..............

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  • Well another day another advert for our practice in North Wales - then look on the map and the three most likley areas of recruitment have training deficits of between 20 and 40 percent - no Mpig and high earning but no one wants to come - Is our story that unusual I don't think so - sadly the shutters are going down on Primary care as we have known it and it is too late now to use money to bribe people in or keep them in the craft. Best jobin the world and no one wants it - tragedy.

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  • "Health Education England said it was unable to comment until the end of the pre-election ‘purdah’ period." What rubbish. Crisis, what crisis?

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  • Azeem Majeed

    Peter Swinyard | GP Partner | 01 April 2015 10:25am

    Peter, I don't think medical schools are responsible for the current problems with GP recruitment. At Imperial College, we now employ more academic GPs than we have ever done in the past (around 25) and are increasing the amount of undergraduate teaching that takes place in primary care.

    We are also the only medical school that runs a GP Training Scheme. Our undergraduate students have established a GP Society to promote primary care.

    Our focus groups with medical students show that once they have completed their GP placements, they are fully aware of the problems that GPs in the UK are currently facing (we place our medical students in practices all across the UK).

    The onus is therefore on the NHS to improve the conditions under which GPs work and once again make general practice an attractive career option for medical students and junior doctors.

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