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New ‘Pre-GP’ training scheme ‘a dead duck’ after failing to attract graduates

Exclusive: An innovative one-year scheme to plug GP training gaps has been branded a ‘dead duck’ after failing to fill two thirds of its places.

A pilot of Health Education England’s Pre-GP project, launched in June to offer intensive hospital training to medical graduates who failed to meet the requirements for the initial GP training intake, has only been able to recruit 14 medical graduates out of a possible 46.

The scheme, being piloted in several parts of the country, offers applicants the chance to undergo ‘three posts of four months duration, hospital based, but with an opportunity to spend some time in primary care.’

It is part of HEE’s plans to boost the GP workforce after figures leaked by Pulse in June found that almost 40% of GP training places nationally were unfilled. This is despite the Government having to achieve its target of training 3,250 new GPs a year by 2016, which itself was put back a year from the original planned implementation of 2015.

However Health Education East Midlands, which manages the region where only 60% of GP training places have been filled, told Pulse that it is struggling to make up numbers for its pilot with the final uptake figures due to be confirmed in August.

Health Education East Midlands’ director of education and quality and postgraduate dean, Professor Sheona MacLeod, said: ‘[The scheme] aims to provide some additional support to junior doctors still considering general practice as a career. Eligible junior doctors should have been contacted about it and we are currently finalising numbers. These are likely to be low for this initial pilot.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s GP trainees subcommittee told Pulse: ‘My understanding is that it’s being offered to candidates who missed the cut-off by a very small margin, the ones who already applied for GP training but missed the cut-off. It’s to try and bring them up to scratch so they can apply again for general practice maybe next year.’

‘On paper it sounds like a reasonable thing to do, but this is not how one would like see it happen. It’s taking money which is now being used to fund non-training posts, and they can’t guarantee it will work.’

‘The optimist would like to think “well this real, we’ll have fantastic results for next year”, but I don’t share their enthusiasm. If it works and I’m proven wrong I’d be more than happy to put my hand up and say I’m wrong.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that the scheme was a ‘dead duck’ and that HEE should be funding long term strategies for addressing workforce crisis.

Dr Vautrey told Pulse: ‘This is clearly a dead duck as we expected. It is a complete misnomer to call this “pre-GP” as it is simply a scheme to fill service roles in hospital and won’t enable doctors to get proper exposure to general practice.’

 ‘Instead of half-baked schemes like this we need HEE to release and implement the GP Task Force report that we were involved in preparing over a year ago.’

‘This contains clear recommendations which if implemented would go a considerable way to solving the current GP recruitment crisis.’

HEE has also set out plans to run a third round of recruitment for the first time and organise career talks in a bid to boost the GP workforce. It told Pulse it is awaiting a clearer ‘national picture’ of its pilots before releasing figures or details of where the pilots are.

This story was edited on 18 July to reflect that two thirds of places were unfilled.