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GP training in turmoil with ‘one application for every four roles’

Fewer than 40 graduates have applied for 148 GP training places in one area of England for the August 2015 intake, in the first indication that there has been a further ‘significant deterioration’ in this year’s GP training crisis, the BMA has claimed.

The figures, relating to the first round of recruitment for next year’s intake in the north east of England, were reported at the GPC meeting yesterday, following discussions between local GP leaders with health education bosses.

According to the GPC, only 18 applicants are expected to accept training roles.

However, Health Education England said that it had not yet published any figures and ‘did not recognise’ the figures cited by the BMA.

The GPC said that these figures are a ‘significant deterioration’ from last year, which itself saw a 15% reduction in training place applications.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee said: ‘The BMA has been warning for some time that there is a real and serious GP workforce crisis emerging across the country. The figures from the North East highlight this once again, with more than a hundred vacancies for GP trainee positions after round 1.

‘This is a significant deterioration from last year. This shortage is particularly worrying given that areas in the north have shown signs of being especially badly affected. With fewer GPs in post, this means less trained staff available to provide appointments and other services to patients.’

He added that the GPC was ‘working urgently with NHS England, Health Education England and the RCGP to tackle this crisis’.

But Dr Kasaraneni said: ‘We need to address the huge pressures facing GP practices and guaranteeing that GPs are given the resources to be able to deliver the services that patients deserve and need.’

But a spokesperson for HEE said: ‘We do not recognise these figures, which were not discussed with us. We have informed the BMA and asked them to retract their statement. Our Mandate from the Government requires us to provide 3,250 GP training places by 2016. We are well on course to achieve that number and are working hard on a variety of initiatives to ensure general practice is seen as an exciting and interesting career choice for trainees.’

This follows this year’s training programme, which saw 12% of roles remained unfilled, even after an unprecedented third round of recruitment was brought in.

The shortfall was partly attributed to a reduction in medical graduates applying for GP training roles, with this year’s applications falling by 15% on 2013 figures.

Health Education England this week published its Workforce Plan for England, which revealed it wants to train up 15% more GPs next year as part of a £5bn plan for the coming year. It also said it had commissioned hundreds of new ‘physician assistants’ roles to support GPs and that it wants to expand the number of full-time equivalent GPs by 15% by 2020.

This article was amended at 17:00 on 19 December 2014 to include the statement from Health Education England