This site is intended for health professionals only

Half of GP training places ‘unfilled in some areas’

Exclusive Half of GP training places may remain unfilled in some parts of the UK this year, according to shocking official figures seen by Pulse.

An official performance report published yesterday by Health Education England suggested the North East of England had filled just 51% of its places. The situation was not much better in the East Midlands, which had only filled 57%.

But after Pulse enquired about the figures, HEE removed the document from its website citing ‘issues with data quality’.

Health education bosses have refused to release figures about the number of GP training places that have been filled, despite there being just a few weeks before new GP trainees start their placements.

But Pulse revealed last month that across the UK a fifth of training places remained unfilled following two rounds of recruitment, after obtaining figures from the Scottish Government.

This new performance report from Health Education England comes as the body confirmed that it would run a third round of recruitment for GP training – as introduced for the first time last year.

The figures suggest that in some areas the fill rate is much worse than last year, with gaps of up to 49%.

The Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Thames Valley regions have filled their entire GP training post allocations, but the West Midlands, Wessex and North West all had low uptakes, ranging from 67% to 71%.

This marks the second year running that a third round has been required as applications to GP training places have been dwindling in recent years, with the north of England especially badly affected by the recruitment crisis. It also comes as health secretary Jeremy Hunt recently rowed back on the Conservative Government’s election promise of creating 5,000 new GPs by 2020, by admitting this was ‘the maximum’ achievable.

A HEE spokesperson said that, following Pulse’s enquiry, inaccuracies had been discovered in the data and, as a result, the figures would no longer be discussed at the board meeting. He said: ‘The data in the paper are not accurate, and HEE will publish accurate data on the GP fill rate in due course, once a third round of recruitment has taken place.

‘We held a third round of recruitment last year, helping us to fill more posts, and it makes sense to do this again to help increase the numbers of doctors in general practice and further improve services for patients.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s education, training and workforce committee, said: ‘There are clearly some areas that have worse crises than others, but even in the areas where there is 100% fill it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be enough GPs to meet the need.

‘If there aren’t enough people applying for GPs courses we can’t just conjure them up – there needs to be a change in rhetoric by the Government to show they want to reduce the workload. Unless they do that there’s no way to entice new doctors into thinking that general practice is a sustainable career. We have been screaming out that this issue needs to be addressed.’

Dr George Rae, chief executive officer of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC said: ‘I’ve been a GP for a long time, but the profession is in the most serious crisis I’ve known in my career.

‘Many partnerships are on the verge of implosion – locums are not easy to find. The North East finds it difficult to attract people in, but once they are here they do tend to stay for a long time. The problems are all about workload, mostly non-resourced workload.

‘I think some kind of devolution of political decision making in healthcare, as is happening in Manchester, could help with local recruitment here, because local people would have a better understanding of how to address the recruitment problems.’

GP training places: Where are the gaps?

Kent, Surrey and Sussex – 100% (248/248)

Thames Valley – 100% (115/115)

London – 98% (435/443)

South West – 95% (249/262)

East of England – 91% (292/320)

Scotland – 79% (240/305)*

North West – 71% (337/478)

Yorkshire & Humber – 77% (228/295)

Wessex – 69% (97/140)

West Midands – 67% (233/350)

East Midlands – 57% (159/280)

North East – 51% (99/193)

Source: Health Education England board paper breaking down the uptake to GP ST1 places in 2015 so far Please note: HEE has said there are ‘quality issues’ with these data

*Source: Scottish Government