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Record number of GP trainees recruited, education bosses announce

Health education bosses have announced they have recruited more GP trainees than ever before, and they expect to hit their target of 3,250 to start training this year.

Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, said that they had already recruited 3,019 medical graduates for GP training after the first round of recrutiment – a 10% increase from the same stage last year.

This comes after Health Education England recruited the highest ever number of GP trainees after two rounds of recruitment last year, with 3,157 recruited. 

However, this still fell short of the long standing target to recruit 3,250 trainees, which was first set for 2015 by former health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, he said: ‘We are announcing today: 3,019 people have accepted posts on GP training programmes so far in 2018. That means I can confidently say that we will hit the 3,250 GP training numbers when we finish round two, for the first time ever.

‘That means that about 50% of all doctors who train in this country are now choosing to go into general practice.’

Professor Cumming also told delegates that they were aiming to stop the rise in GPs doing short-term locum work.

He said: ‘That isn’t what we want. That isn’t what our patients want. We want the continuity of care. We want these people in substantive employment. What can we do to attract these people into substantive employment?’

He added that of GPs ‘who gained their completion of training certificate in general practice five years ago’, 60% are in ‘substantive or long-term locum appointments in this country’.

Professor Cumming said: ‘Where are 40%? Forty percent of all the people who completed training five years ago as GPs are not working in substantive GP employment or as long-term locums.

‘They are doing short-term locums, they are doing other things now. As every year goes by, beyond five years, that number goes up slightly. We have to address it. How do we train people? How do we keep people? It is not just one part of the equation.

‘And by the way, let’s add some money into this. To take someone from the day they walk into medicine school until the day they can qualify as a GP costs somewhere in the region of half a million pounds. So every person who we lose, the NHS has invested half a million pounds in their training.’

The latest figures show that 1,000 GPs have left the profession since September 2015 – when health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he would increase the number of FTE GPs in England by 5,000.

However, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has since confessed that he is ‘struggling to deliver’ his pledge for 5,000 additional GPs by 2020, admitting that ‘it has been harder than we thought’.

Professor Cumming said: ‘There is no shortage of people who want to come and work in healthcare. We see very, very large numbers of people expressing an interest. We have got to focus on the retention issue, though.

‘We cannot simply keep producing more and more and more people when we have people who for whatever reasons are dissatisfied with the employment offer that they are getting.

‘They’re dissatisfied with the education and training that they are getting post-qualification, and therefore they are leaving. We have to address both parts of this.

‘It is like a bath with water coming in from a tap at one end and out a plug at the other end. We need to make sure that we reduce the outflow of water.’

NHS England has said that its five-year GP retention programme is currently supporting 254 GPs to stay on in the profession as of the end of December 2017. However, GP leaders have said more support needs to be given to GPs to join the programme.

Dr Tom Micklewright, BMA GP trainee subcommittee chair, said: ‘In recent years, there have been real problems recruiting GPs, and these figures obviously show progress being made and we welcome any increase in numbers.’

However, he added: ‘These new GPs will take 10 years to train and without urgent action and investment to address the ongoing pressures of increased workload, soaring demand and increased bureaucracy, in that time we will see more and more experienced doctors leaving the profession or reducing their time spent with patients.’