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Health education bosses admit errors in GP training vacancy data

Exclusive Health education bosses have admitted they have made a mistake in their publication of GP training vacancy rates following the first round of recruitment.

Pulse reported that GP leaders were puzzled by the figures published this week, as they showed dramatic improvements in the number of positions that had been filled, despite applications having decreased.

But Health Education England has said there was a mistake in the data.

Pulse has learned that the main error centres round the vacancy figures for the North-East of England, where there are 100 vacancies – and not the 10 originally reported on the GP National Recruitment Office website.

But HEE has said it is checking all the data for more potential errors.

With the change in the North-East rates, this means there are a similar proportion of vacancies this year as last.

Even if the remainder of the data is unchanged, it means 23% of training posts across the UK remain unfilled this year – compared with 24% at the same stage last year.

It also means that in the North-East – which had the worst trainee recruitment problems last year – more than 50% of the places remain unfilled.

But there is still a chance that more places are unfilled once the data are rechecked.

Health Education England has always said it could not comment on filled places until after the recruitment process has completed.

But it told Pulse: ‘It has just been flagged to us that there is an error in the vacancy data that is on the GP NRO website. We are checking all data now.’

Pulse reported earlier today that BMA leaders were going to raise the issue of the dramatic increase in the number of filled places.

HEE had said that its marketing campaign – which featured a YouTube video of a GP signing a consent form for a patient to go skydiving – has been a ’notable success’. 

It has also introduced a ’golden hello’ scheme in some areas, which offered a £20,000 payment for trainees taking roles in hard-to-fill areas as part of its ten-point plan to boost the GP workforce. But, there were only 109 payments offered, and the majority of them were in the North-West – where 36% of posts remained vacant, the second highest in any part of the country.

Pledge to recruit 5,000 new GPs in danger

A health minister last week admitted that there is a ‘risk’ around whether the Government will achieve its commitment to find 10,000 new GPs or GP equivalents, and that failure to achieve the target would make it ‘difficult to deliver our ambitions’.

Lord Prior – who was chair of the CQC before becoming minister for NHS productivity last year – has cast doubt on health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s commitments on GP numbers, which included increasing the workforce by 5,000 GPs by 2020.

It came after leaked figures obtained by Pulse revealed that despite a national advertising campaign aimed at promoting general practice as a career, the proportion of doctors applying for GP specialty training starting in August 2016 has reached a record low.

Last year, the first application round of GP training received 5,112 applications for 3,609 places but this only delivered 2,769 trainees in 2015 despite three application rounds and changes to allow failed applicants to reapply.