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Health education bosses ‘in discussions’ about GP trainee target increase

The target number of GP trainees recruited every year in England may rise from the current 3,250, as a result of talks taking place between workforce planning officials.

Health Education England said there were ‘ongoing discussions’ about the recruitment figure, but stressed ‘any final decisions’ would need to be made jointly between HEE, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England.

The talks come as heealthcare education leaders are on track to reach the existing target, originally set out by former health secretary Andrew Lansley for a target date of 2015, for the very first time this year.

The plans to potentially boost the target were revealed in HEE’s latest board papers, which refer to ‘proposals for increasing recruitment which would need additional funds to be identified’.

An HEE spokesperson told Pulse: ‘There are ongoing discussions on the recruitment figure but these are all proposals at this time and any final decisions would need to be made with DHSC, NHS England and HEE jointly.’

The spokesperson  was unable to confirm what level of target increase was being discussed.

The board papers also said GP trainee recruitment numbers had been ‘more volatile than other trainee posts’.

HEE told Pulse this referred to difficulties in predicting the varying levels of success in attracting trainees onto GP programmes in different parts of England.

‘When looking at increasing numbers to recruitment with various campaigns and/or schemes in progress across the country it is not possible to always predict what will be most successful and where,’ said the HEE spokesperson.

But BMA GP Committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni pointed out that the 3,250 target had still not been met, despite having been ‘around for nearly a decade in various guises’

He said: ‘We need some clarity about where recruitment actually is at the moment and we shouldn’t be looking at one-off increases in targeting GP recruitment…

‘The 3,250 target has been around for a decade and we still haven’t hit it. Simply changing the target but not looking at the rest of the issues around recruitment and retention, and returning GPs back to the profession won’t get us the results we need.’

‘There are qualified GPs who are working in the system but they’re being pushed out from practices because of bureaucracy, workload pressures, lack of funds and all those things – and unless we deal with those fundamental issues, it doesn’t matter how many are recruited, we will still continue to lose them,’ he added.

The DHSC declined to comment.