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GP training set for swingeing cuts as education bosses told to find 30% savings

Exclusive The GP training budget is set to be cut in a move that could affect trainers’ grants and study leave, Pulse has learned.

Pulse understands that trainees’ salaries will not be cut, but all other areas of spending in general practice training are being considered for cuts, as Health Education England has to trim its budget by 20%-30%.

GP educators have already been offered voluntary redundancy, alongside all other staff members, due to a reduction in funding for non-frontline health services announced by then-chancellor George Osborne in the 2015 spending review.

The GPC said that these potential cuts are ’unacceptable’ and a ’further blow to the very foundations of primary care’. 

Health Education England is responsible for increasing the number of trainees entering general practice to meet the Government’s aim of adding 5,000 GPs to the workforce by 2020.

It has increased the number of GPs starting training over the past year, but still failed in its objective to train 3,250 a year by 2016.

But its budget was, at best, frozen as part of the 2015 spending review, with the Government announcing at the same time an end to bursaries for nursing.

As a result, Pulse has been told by several high-placed sources that HEE is considering cuts to all areas of GP training, with only trainees’ salaries being protected.

This could include trainers’ grants, Pulse has been told, which may be cut through removing the variation across England.

It has already offered voluntary redundancy to all staff, including GP educators, in a letter sent over the weekend. It did say, however, that not all staff who apply for voluntary redundancies will necessarily be granted their wish, and that it would look to retain the skills it needs.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, GPC’s education, training and workforce lead, said: ’It is unacceptable that the Government is considering forcing through cuts of 20-30% to the HEE budget at this critical time for general practice. GP services are under enormous strain from soaring patient demand, stagnating budgets and widespread staff shortages.

’What they do not need is a further blow to the very foundations of primary care through large scale cuts to vital training that helps produce the next generation of high quality GPs and maintains current high clinical standards. GP training practices are already operating at a significant loss as they provide training with poor funding and out of goodwill. Any such cuts could spell the end of GP training as we know it.

’Ministers need to shelve these plans and ensure that HEE do not have their budget cut to shreds.’

A Health Education England spokesperson said: ’The work we are doing to reduce running costs and ensure best value from education support funds is being coordinated across the whole organisation and the needs of our doctors in training and our other students, trainees and trainers remain top of our agenda when agreeing changes to our budgets as they always have done.’

Speaking specifically on the voluntary redundancies, Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, said: ’HEE faces the requirement to reduce the amount of money we spend on running the organisation to reflect both the reduction in our administration budget over the coming period and the need to free up resources to reinvest in our priorities as an organisation, which includes Primary Care.

’HEE and our trade union partners are committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies wherever possible. We are committed to using a voluntary approach, it therefore makes sense to run this scheme now, as all of the savings that accrue will in turn reduce the total amount required from the wider changes currently being planned for the 2017/18 financial year.

‘The scheme is open to all staff currently employed by HEE.’

The HEE board will be meeting tomorrow.