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GP recruitment drive stalls as deaneries increase intake by just 95 GP trainees

Exclusive: Deaneries have recruited only 95 additional GP trainees to begin training next month, casting serious doubt on whether Health Education England will reach its target of an annual intake of 3,250 GP trainees by 2015.

Figures obtained by Pulse from Health Education England (HEE) reveal that 2,787 GP trainee posts were offered in England this year, with 2,764 positions accepted - an increase of just 95 since 2012, when 2,669 such places were accepted.

The Government’s push to increase the proportion of medical trainees going into general practice to 50% by 2015 does appear to be on track, with the proportion of GP trainees increasing this year by five percentage points to 41%. But this increase can be put down to a sharp fall in the overall number of medical training posts taken up. HEE said there were 4,030 hospital trainees due to start training in England this year, a fall of 695 from 2012, when 4,725 such places were accepted.

The latest figures come amid mounting fears that general practice is in the midst of a workforce crisis. RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada has claimed that 10,000 more GPs are needed to help the NHS deal with a rising workload, while the Centre for Workforce Intelligence, which was commissioned by the Government to look into the GP workforce, urged ministers to make general practice a more appealing option for medical students to boost recruitment.

Former health secretary Andrew Lansley last year set out a plan to boost the number of GP trainees by 20% by 2015 in England so that GP registrars would make up 50% of the specialty training places. However the latest figures suggest that deaneries may struggle to achieve the 20% increase in overall numbers.

Three deaneries of the 13 deaneries in England - Kent, Surrey and Sussex Deanery, NHS West Midlands Workforce Deanery and Yorkshire and the Humber Deanery - will actually train fewer GPs next year. The figure for the total number of GP trainees does not include 29 trainees at the Defence Postgraduate Medical Deanery, up from 24 last year.

Professor Bill Irish, chair of the GP National Recruitment Office, said: ‘Any increase is clearly a step in the right direction, and is a tribute to all of the efforts being made by Health Education England and its GP deans to tackle this important issue. It is however fairly clear that we still have some way to go.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the BMA’s GP trainees subcommittee, said: ‘Health Education England declared that numbers would reach 3,250 by 2015 and given that is two years away, this is really falling short. The problem is that we need significant financial investment in primary care in order for this to work.’

‘General practice needs to be promoted as a speciality that you want to do rather than one you do when nothing else works out. Also, the constant negative attitude towards GPs in the media does not do the profession or the speciality any good.’

A spokesperson for Health Education England said: ‘We have seen an increase of nearly 100 GP trainees this year. A GP taskforce was established to specifically look at what the system needed to do to achieve the longstanding target of 3,250 GP trainees in England. This will include the need to promote general practice as a career choice for students in medical schools and doctors on foundation programmes.’

‘Over the summer, the taskforce will be publishing very specific recommendations for the system to achieve the 3,250 target by 2015.’