Exclusive The health secretary’s announcement that a ‘pre-GP’ training scheme will be rolled out after an ‘82% success rate’ in a pilot was based on just 14 successful participants, Pulse can reveal.
Health Education England told Pulse that only 17 people took up one of the 46 ‘pre-GP’ roles in the East Midlands, which gave medical graduates who had failed GP training entrance requirements a year’s experience in a relevant speciality to improve their skills.
Of these, 14 went on to be successful in entering GP training this year, leading Jeremy Hunt to proclaim in his ‘new deal’ speech last week that the ‘82% success rate’ of the scheme was an example of ‘the better experience’ of GP training that HEE was promoting.
But GP leaders said that the scheme could not be called a success.
The scheme was launched last year by HEE, who said it would give ‘additional support to junior doctors still considering general practice as a career’.
The GPC branded the scheme a ‘dead duck’ last year after Pulse revealed it was struggling to recruit, and said the roles were simply a stop gap to fill service roles in hospitals that were empty as a result of the shortfall in GP trainees.
However, despite HEE filling only 17 of the 46 roles, Mr Hunt lauded the scheme in his ‘new deal’ speech last week.
He said: ‘We need to transform the experience which medical students have of general practice. We are changing the focus of medical training so that time spent in primary care is not only compulsory but also a better experience.’
‘As part of this, a new pre-GP scheme has been launched by Health Education England which, in its first year, had a success rate of 82%.’
Pulse asked HEE about the 82% figure and a spokesperson said: ‘Rather than leaving applicants to do locum posts and try again at selection in future years, they were provided with early training in a useful programme of work, with an educational focus on addressing the perceived issues with progression in GP training.
‘In order to try and gain the maximum understanding of whether this has succeeded we need to await the results of the evaluation process which has yet to reach its conclusion, but currently 82% of those who were in pre-GP training now have a place in GP training.’
The spokesperson added: ‘[We have] small numbers at the moment – [of the] 17 admitted, 14 were successful in selection into GP training.’
HEE also said it did not currently record comparative figures for trainees who were unsuccessful in their first attempt, and reapplied next year without the pre-GP scheme, noting that trainees might not reapply immediately, or might change specialty between years.
The spokesperson added that further evaluation of the pre-GP participants will take place as they continue through training.
But Dr Peter Holden, a former GPC negotiator and a GP in Matlock, Derbyshire, which was part of the pilot scheme, said Mr Hunt’s claim was a case of ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’.
He added: ‘The scheme was there to fill in a disaster, so how you can call it a success, I don’t know.
Mr Hunt also reiterated the Government’s pledge to increase the number of medical students in GP training to 3,250 by 2016, stating it was ‘encouraging’ that 300 additional applicants had applied this year.
But Pulse has already shown how the extra applicants in round two of training this year simply negated the drop in the first round, and was likely the product of a rule change allowing failed applicants to reapply.