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Training bosses introduce further round of GP trainee recruitment in ‘desperate’ bid to plug shortfalls

Exclusive: Health education managers are running an unprecedented third recruitment round for GP trainees in the autumn as part of a ‘knee-jerk’ bid to fill the gaping hole in trainee numbers, Pulse can reveal.

This is the first time that graduates have been given a third chance to apply for GP training posts, and comes after Pulse revealed that as many as 40% of training places were going unfilled in some parts of the country.

The GPC said that the plan for a third round of intake is a ‘knee-jerk, short-term’ solution and that there are few graduates remaining who could fill the places.

The announcement of the third round comes as Health Education England said it was running a ‘pre-GP’ year spent in hospitals for trainees who failed to pass the assessment stage for GP training, while the GPC accused HEE of ‘burying’ a report on a long-term strategy for increasing GP recruitment.

The Department of Health mandate for HEE requires them to ensure 3,250 graduates enter general practice every year by 2016, which in itself represented a one year extension to the original deadline, after a surprise 15% drop in applications meant they were unlikely to achieve the 2015 target.

Pulse revealed that HEE was way short of its figures this year, with only 2,564 of positions filled in England, representing 87% of those training posts available, which is a decrease onthe 2,764 positions filled in August 2013.

A spokesperson for HEE said: ‘We are holding a third round of GP recruitment this year. It is the first time this has been done and is part of a range of measures we are taking to help increase the number of GP trainees in line with our mandate target to provide 3,250 places by 2016.’

‘Other measures include a review of the GP recruitment process, development of a pre-GP year for prospective applicants and careers advice for foundation doctors and medical students.’

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, a GPC negotiator and a GP in Cornwall, told Pulse that standards shouldn’t be allowed to slip in order to plug gaps in recruitment, and that a Government drive to promote general practice was needed.

She said: ‘What we want is quality general practitioners, and we need to make sure that what we do is we continue with the same high standards necessary to actually recruit into general practice.’

‘My concern, obviously, is that to me this smacks of desperation. And actually it’s not the way to solve the recruitment crisis we have in general practice, they need to think about addressing the problem and this will not address that.’

‘It is a knee-jerk, short-term, inadequate solution to a much bigger problem. We need to start addressing the reasons why people no longer want to train as a GP, and why – once they do – a significant number are leaving.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC trainee subcommittee told Pulse he had his doubts about the scheme’s effectiveness, as there was no surplus of medical students waiting to choose a speciality.

Dr Kasaraneni said: ‘If it works, fantastic, but somehow I don’t think it will. My understanding of it is that all the specialty placements are filled, but I think psychiatry and general practice are significantly under-recruited. If you look at the sheer numbers, general practice is by far the worst.’

‘And if there’s no interest already in the normal rounds, there’s not going to be that many people who are out of sync who decide to go for the third in the middle of the year.’

‘Since 2007 when modernising medical career s happened, general practice hasn’t had a third round… I don’t think it will work, but they can try.’