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Trainee doctors shun general practice



By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Would-be GPs are turning away from the profession in droves, with the number of applicants for registrar positions and new GPs applying for jobs plummeting.

Figures obtained by Pulse suggest repeated pay freezes and an anti-GP campaign in the media have dealt a damaging blow to the attractiveness of the profession to trainee doctors.

Gai Evans, national recruitment manager at the National Recruitment Office for General Practice, said the numbers of prospective GPs applying to deaneries had fallen from around 9,000 in 2008 to 5,500 in 2010, a reduction of nearly 40%.

‘The numbers applying for GP training are falling,’ she said. The organisation had managed to fill all its trainee posts, she said, but only because of reductions in posts available in other specialties, which had forced doctors into general practice as a second choice.

Further new figures released by the NHS Information Centre show practices are now finding it far harder to fill GP job vacancies because of an acute lack of suitably qualified applicants.

The proportion of unfilled vacancies in England has soared by almost two-thirds in the past two years, with the number of long-term vacancies rising even more sharply.

The situation is particularly acute in the poorest areas of the country, with a series of PCTs reporting more than one in every 10 GP posts is now vacant – as many as one in five in some areas.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash blamed reductions in pay and increases in workload over recent years, and warned the situation was unsustainable. ‘Many doctors are looking at general practice and saying it’s not something they want to do. We can’t keep taking cuts and having more work piled on.’

The vacancy rate in England increased by 31% from 2009-10, and by 61% from 2008-10. In the same period, the proportion of positions vacant for more than three months rose by more than two-thirds. The figures suggest it will be difficult for the Government to attract more GPs to deprived areas. The total vacancy rate in 2010 is 2.1%, but is nearly double that in the North East, where NHS Middlesbrough has had more than one post in 10 unfilled for three months. In Solihull the vacancy rate for GPs is even higher at 19.8% and in Birmingham is 16.1%.

Dr Arturo Lupoli, a GP in Solihull, described the vacancy figures in some parts of the PCT as ‘astronomical’. He said: ‘Word has got out that there was a squeeze of general practice. Most of the jobs are for salaried posts, not partnerships, and that could also be having an impact.’

Dr Arturo Lupoli: word has got out about a squeeze on general practice Dr Arturo Lupoli: word has got out about a squeeze on general practice