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Surprise drop in available GP training places across the UK

Exclusive Education bodies are reporting a dramatic decrease in vacant training posts for general practice, in a development that has puzzled GP leaders.

The GP National Recruitment Office has published details of vacancies across the country, showing that 20% of posts remain vacant, compared with 24% at the same stage last year.

In the North East, only ten of 192 positions are vacant for the next round of training – compared with 63% last year.

The BMA has said that it is seeking clarification from HEE on the surprising figures that come despite applications decreasing by 5% on last year, and the total number of available training posts increasing this year.

HEE has said it could not confirm the number of places filled, but according to the GP NRO website, there are 770 vacancies across the UK out of a total of 3,811 posts – 20% – following the end of the first round. This compares with a 24% vacancy rate last year for slightly fewer places.

HEE 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 highest in any part of the country.

A spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The most notable success in the first year of [the ten point plan] is the completion of a successful 10 week GP recruitment marketing campaign.

‘Evaluation of the campaign has shown a high level of engagement with the campaign from across the medical community: over 60,000 visits to the GPNRO website; 4,655 ‘engagements’ on Facebook (the predominant social media channel for trainees); estimated 9million impressions on Twitter.’

The BMA has said that it is contacting HEE about the issue. A BMA spokesperson said: ‘The BMA has asked HEE for clarification on these figures, we do need to be clear about the recruitment challenge facing general practice which in our view remains substantial.’

Dr Chris Hewitt, chief executive of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland LMC, said that the drop in vacancies was ’potentially good news’.

He added: ’In 2012 the East Midlands had 16 applicants for every ten vacancies for GP training. By 2015 this had fallen to 8 applicants for every ten vacancies.’

’Perhaps in the East Midlands this is down to Leicester City Football Club putting the region on the map or perhaps these early statistics are just too good to be true.’ 

Surprise figures buck recent trends

A health minister last week admitted that there is a ‘risk’ around whether the Government will achieve its commitment to find 10,000 new GP 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.