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60% of GP training places remain unfilled in areas of England

Exclusive Parts of the UK still have 60% of GP training places for August 2017 unfilled after the first round of intake, official figures have indicated.

Across the UK, 27% of training places are still being advertised on the official GP National Recruitment Office website to start in August 2017.

But in the north east, 108 places are still being advertised, out of a total of 170 originally offered.

The BMA says that the high percentage of places that are still being advertised shows that the GP workforce crisis ‘continues to worsen’.

But Health Education England (HEE) says the figures are preliminary and only published to give applicants an indication of where they could apply.

Health Education England had a target of recruiting 3,250 GP trainees per year in England from 2016 – a target that was originally meant to be met by 2015. This is part of the Government’s drive to recruit 5,000 extra GPs from 2015 to 2020.

However, it missed the 3,250 target last year, recruiting only 2,927, but this was an improvement on previous years.

It has now finished its first round of recruitment for August 2017, and published the number of vacancies available for its second round, which is currently underway.

The vacancies available suggest that it has recruited around 2,600 GP trainees for August, although HEE has been unable to verify this figure. This is an improvement on the 2,300 recruited at the same stage last year.

But the numbers of vacancies do suggest that some areas are struggling to fill their places this year. These include:

  • The north east England region, where 61% of places are still being advertised;
  • Across the whole of the north of England, including the north east, 42% of the 966 places advertised in November remain unfilled;
  • In the East Midlands, 39% of the 270 positions are unfilled;
  • In Scotland 143 places are still being advertised, 41% of the 350 advertised this year – this compares with 18% in Wales and 10% in Northern Ireland.

London, the largest training cohort with 458 places available, was the only region to fill up after one round, closely followed by Thames Valley and Kent, Surrey, and Sussex.

The problems with GP recruitment

Boosting recruitment is a significant plank of Jeremy Hunt’s plan to ‘train and retain’ an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020.

An earlier Pulse investigation found that the DH will likely miss their target by more than half as the Government is on track to increase its primary care workforce by just 2,100, unless there are significant changes to the number of GPs joining and leaving the workforce.

Since then Mr Hunt has announced a £100m plan to make the NHS ‘self-sufficient’ by making doctors work in the NHS for four years after qualifying and increasing the number of medical school places by ‘up to a quarter’.

But the GP workforce fell by 96 GPs in the last year, despite ‘golden handshake’ schemes offering GPs £20,000 to work in some rural, remote or deprived parts of England.

Other attempts to boost recruitment include an NHS England overseas recruitment scheme worth £20m to bring 500 GPs over from Europe by 2020. GPs from Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland and Spain are due to arrive in Lincolnshire and Essex next month, with more going to Hull later in the year.

The latest figures suggest a continuation of the trend identified by Health Education England chief executive Professor Ian Cumming in 2015, where he warned that the expansion of training places across the country had seen extra places in London and the South fill completely, while the gaps remained in areas already struggling to recruit.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, the workforce lead of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: ‘The fact that 27% of training places remain empty is yet more evidence that the GP workforce crisis continues to worsen. ‘These latest figures demonstrate that some areas of the country are particularly badly affected, including the North East and parts of the Midlands.

‘The target of recruiting 5,000 new doctors in general practice was always a dubious pledge and the weight of evidence is showing that this promise will not be met. Even if it is met, it will not be enough.

‘The general election needs to focus on these problems: politicians have to stop ducking the challenges that are threatening to overwhelm GP practices.’

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGPs, said: ‘It is hugely encouraging to see more GP training places being filled as a whole compared to this time last year, and it shows that efforts, such as the College’s Think GP campaign, are starting to have a positive effect on securing the future GP workforce. This is great news for general practice, and ultimately our patients.

‘Nevertheless, we can’t be complacent and there is variation across the country, so it is vital that we continue to spread positive messages about general practice right across England, and indeed the UK.’

A HEE spokesperson said: ’This is the position at the end of round 1, with further rounds of recruitment to come, and it is very important that doctors in training can see the current fill rates and geographies at this interim stage.’

What regions have still have places available for GP training in 2016/17?

HEE Local Offices & Deaneries Indicative ST1 Vacancies Vacancies after Round 1 % of places still available
East Midlands 270 105 39%
East of England 304 76 25%
Kent, Surrey & Sussex 227 26 11%
North East 177 108 61%
North West 461 166 36%
South West 239 64 27%
Thames Valley 114 9 8%
Wessex 139 38 27%
West Midlands 342 101 30%
Yorkshire and the Humber 328 129 39%
London Recruitment 458 0 0%
England 3059 822 27%
NHS Education Scotland 350 143 41%
Northern Ireland 97 10 10%
Wales Deanery 130 23 18%
UK 3636 998 27%



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