Exclusive Applications for postgraduate GP specialty training have dropped by 15% this year putting Government targets to boost GP numbers at risk, Pulse has learnt.
Official figures due to be published imminently will show almost 1,000 fewer trainees expressing an interest in general practice across the UK, compared with 2013, striking a huge blow to the Government’s attempts to attract 3,250 new GPs a year in England by 2015.
The 15% drop in applications – announced by the GP National Recruitment Office at an internal meeting of education directors – and revealed to Pulse by a senior source close to the discussions, are likely to show there were around 5,100 applications across the UK, compared with 6,031 last year.
If the reduction is consistent across the UK, this would translate to around 4,450 applications in England.
This dramatic reduction reverses a trend of increased numbers of applications since 2011, when there were 5,590 applications, compared with 5,915 in 2012.
The GPC said the figures, announced at a recent meeting of the Committee of GP Education Directors (COGPED), could further exacerbate the current GP recruitment crisis across the UK.
The figures on applications come after Pulse revealed earlier this week that education bosses are looking to cap training numbers in other specialties in future years to push more people into general practice.
In 2013, despite an increase in the number of applications, the number of medical graduates actually starting a GP placement in England only increased by 95 to 2,764, still well short of the Government’s targets.
This year the fall in applications is likely to make a big difference as typically a quarter of the applicants to GP training traditionally fail to make the cut after assessment, and some applications will be made by trainees who will take up other training in another specialty.
Also the figures are also distorted by high numbers of applications in areas such as London, with northern deaneries more likely to be hit hard by the drop in applications.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GP trainees subcommittee, confirmed the 15% figure was correct and that he was concerned about its affect on GP trainee numbers.
He said: ‘We do not know why the figures have gone down. We want to know whether this is a one-off, or is a general trend of numbers going down? If it is, we are in big trouble.
‘We need to get to the 3,250 figure. We need real action to promote general practice. That is just not happening at the moment…. Ten years on, we are still no closer to this target.’
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘These figures are extremely worrying when you consider the Government’s own ambition to significantly increase GP workforce to match its aspirations for delivering care outside hospitals.
‘It is very worrying that general practice is not being seen as an attractive career option and that is because that successive years of disinvestment has resulted in a workforce that is overstretched, lacking in morale and it does not paint an attractive picture for doctors to enter the profession. This needs to be turned around.’
But a spokesperson for Health Education England said they were still on track to meet their targets on GP numbers: ‘Our mandate requires us to increase the number of GP ST1 training places to 3,250 by next year and we are on track to deliver that. The process for recruitment to posts this year is ongoing.’
Number of applications (versus those filled)
2014 – 5,100 (tbd)
20013 – 6,031 (3237)
2012 – 5,915 (3152)
2011 – 5,590 (3144)
2010 – 5,654 (3372)