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Education bosses eye up GP trainers’ grant under new cost-cutting plans

Exclusive Training bosses are considering reducing the GP trainers’ grant as part of a number of proposals aimed at meeting cuts in budgets enforced by the Treasury, Pulse can reveal.

GP leaders for the education, training and workforce policy team of the BMA GP committee told Pulse they had been fighting back against the proposals which could cause ‘already overstretched trainers’ to quit altogether.

Walsall LMC secretary and a West Midlands workforce lead Dr Uzma Ahmad said that locally there was also a push to cut CPD funding from the trainer’s grant and have trainers pay for ‘updates from their own pocket’.

Pulse has found examples across the country of what one training representative called ‘significant streamlining’ in the support and services available to GPs in training, and to the practices training them.

However HEE has said it is increasing the number of GP training places and that cuts to running costs and education support are based on ‘spreading best practice’ and will free-up funding for the front line.

This has resulted in day-release programmes being scaled back in Wessex, a highly praised leadership programme in the North West being axed, and restrictions being placed on support for trainees in trouble in London.

Dr Ahmad said ‘Locally trainers were made aware of the proposal for a reduction in trainers grant, but no final decision on this has been announced’.

She also said thEre was a ‘proposed reduction in the part time trainee’s grant to become pro rata’.

The general sense of job insecurity and pressure has raised concerns that GP educators might go elsewhere.

Dr Ahmad said: ‘My concern, and the reason I’m opposing this, is that this is going to de-incentivise already over-stretched GPs when it is already difficult to provide supervision to GP retainers.’

Dr Duncan Shrewsbury, a West Midlands academis trainee and chair of the RCGP’s Associate in Training sub-committee said HEE was running a wider review of staff ‘workload and how people work in terms of education supervisors and training programme’.

Speaking at a BMA event for trainees he said he expected the West Midlands to be spared the worst cuts because it’s often used as an example for other regions.

But he added: ‘However there is likely to be a significant streamlining of training. So you might see things like seeing more trainees to an education supervisor, or instead of a VTS having three TPDs it may only have two. Things like that.’

HEE said its work to bolster the primary care workforce in other areas, such as developing new professionals like physician associates and improving retention and returner schemes limited what it could cut.

A spokesperson added: ‘We are increasing primary care training places and not reducing the quality of training, what we are doing is cutting our administration spend and, where we can, spreading best practice across the country, learning from each other whilst freeing up funds for the front line.’

HEE budget cuts

Pulse revealed back in February that Health Education England had sent offers of voluntary redundancy to GP training programme directors as part of its bid to make savings.

It has subsequently revealed that a further round of compulsory redundancies are, ‘regrettably’, likely to be required.

Meanwhile its regional training boards are being asked to make tough choices about next year’s spend if HEE is going to succeed in making 30% cuts to its administrative and support budgets .

This currently stand at more than £200m of HEE’s £4.7bn budget for 2017/18, the bulk of which pays salary costs and placements for future NHS staff.

However this is after several years of cuts to the administrative costs prior to the latest Treasury-mandated efficiencies hitting the education support budget.