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Independents' Day

Training bosses introduce further round of GP trainee recruitment in 'desperate' bid to plug shortfalls

Exclusive: Health education managers are running an unprecedented third recruitment round for GP trainees in the autumn as part of a ‘knee-jerk’ bid to fill the gaping hole in trainee numbers, Pulse can reveal.

This is the first time that graduates have been given a third chance to apply for GP training posts, and comes after Pulse revealed that as many as 40% of training places were going unfilled in some parts of the country.

The GPC said that the plan for a third round of intake is a ‘knee-jerk, short-term’ solution and that there are few graduates remaining who could fill the places.

The announcement of the third round comes as Health Education England said it was running a ‘pre-GP’ year spent in hospitals for trainees who failed to pass the assessment stage for GP training, while the GPC accused HEE of ‘burying’ a report on a long-term strategy for increasing GP recruitment.

The Department of Health mandate for HEE requires them to ensure 3,250 graduates enter general practice every year by 2016, which in itself represented a one year extension to the original deadline, after a surprise 15% drop in applications meant they were unlikely to achieve the 2015 target.

Pulse revealed that HEE was way short of its figures this year, with only 2,564 of positions filled in England, representing 87% of those training posts available, which is a decrease onthe 2,764 positions filled in August 2013.

A spokesperson for HEE said: ‘We are holding a third round of GP recruitment this year. It is the first time this has been done and is part of a range of measures we are taking to help increase the number of GP trainees in line with our mandate target to provide 3,250 places by 2016.’

‘Other measures include a review of the GP recruitment process, development of a pre-GP year for prospective applicants and careers advice for foundation doctors and medical students.’

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, a GPC negotiator and a GP in Cornwall, told Pulse that standards shouldn’t be allowed to slip in order to plug gaps in recruitment, and that a Government drive to promote general practice was needed.

She said: ‘What we want is quality general practitioners, and we need to make sure that what we do is we continue with the same high standards necessary to actually recruit into general practice.’

‘My concern, obviously, is that to me this smacks of desperation. And actually it’s not the way to solve the recruitment crisis we have in general practice, they need to think about addressing the problem and this will not address that.’

‘It is a knee-jerk, short-term, inadequate solution to a much bigger problem. We need to start addressing the reasons why people no longer want to train as a GP, and why – once they do – a significant number are leaving.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC trainee subcommittee told Pulse he had his doubts about the scheme’s effectiveness, as there was no surplus of medical students waiting to choose a speciality.

Dr Kasaraneni said: ‘If it works, fantastic, but somehow I don’t think it will. My understanding of it is that all the specialty placements are filled, but I think psychiatry and general practice are significantly under-recruited. If you look at the sheer numbers, general practice is by far the worst.’

‘And if there’s no interest already in the normal rounds, there’s not going to be that many people who are out of sync who decide to go for the third in the middle of the year.’

‘Since 2007 when modernising medical career s happened, general practice hasn’t had a third round… I don’t think it will work, but they can try.’

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  • Krishna Kasaraneni

Readers' comments (43)

  • I would agree with Dr McCarron-Nash - this is an act of desperation and we should not lower standards to fill in gaps.
    Doing a third round sends the wrong signal to potential candidates. At the same time, it is an acknowledgment by the HEE that something is grossly wrong with general practice. The question remains- why batter GPs and desecrate the profession that is already on its knees.

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  • Even if this allows some trainee posts to be filled it certainly won't encourage young doctors to take up GP partner positions.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Sooner or later, the politicians and media will have to swallow their 'pride' to create a more positive image of GPs , willingly or unwillingly. ( you may say I am naive).
    The way GPs have been 'smeared' can easily stop medical students and their family to choose the specialty as a career in this country.

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  • Since the plan is to have far fewer expensive GPs and replace practices with one GP managing a group of triage nurses, the recruitment crisis is not a crisis at all. It's going to plan, which is why the DoH is not the slightest bit concerned.
    When oh when will you GPs wake up?

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  • Practice Manager 11.36. I have a feeling that you are right. But my experience is that nurse practitioners work more slowly than GPs and refer on more, so may end up costing more than doctors in the long run.

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  • Anon Practice Manager is absolutely right. The NHS will always be a bad news story for politicians of all parties so let it implode & blame GPs - result!

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  • Vinci Ho

    So we are to believe the cheaper , the better? Understood!

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  • @Practice Manager 11.36

    That's because it's a much better deal for the taxpayer if the cheaper physician assistants/advanced care nurse practitioners deal with the crud in primary care while the doctors who are alot more expensive to train are kept in hospitals.Considering how we are continually vilified and portrayed as the ignorant,greedy runts of medicine why would any young doctor with an ounce of self respect want to enter General Practice?There is only one thing that will bring the public,media and the politicians to its senses and that is mass closures of GP practices.That isn't happening so perhaps all this talk of a crisis is overplayed.

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  • How can it be a surprise that training numbers are down? What bright and promising young doctor wants to ally themselves to a specialty continuously slandered and demonised by the current government and portrayed so negatively by the press? Whilst having its income streams strangled whilst more and more is demanded all the time. Wake up government! You have caused this crisis, perhaps it is time you took responsibility for a change, instead of cooking up hair-brained health policy.

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