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Only one FTE GP produced for every three graduates trained, says NHS England

For every three GPs trained as full-time equivalent (FTE) only around one remains in general practice, according to NHS England. 

Speaking at Pulse Live last month, NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikita Kanani said more work needs to be done to attract more GPs to stay in the profession as only one for every three full-time equivalent trained GPs stays in the profession. 

In October, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock revealed that the health sector had recruited almost 3,500 GP trainees have been recruited, which exceedeed the 3,250 target for the first time and represented a 10% increase on the previous year.

Health Education England last week revealed that the number of trainees is set to increase even more this year after it recruited record numbers of graduates in the first round of intake.

But Pulse has revealed that more GPs than ever are working part time now, which may be having an effect on the number of trainees coming through the system.

Dr Kanani said that simply increasing the number of trainees may not be enough to increase GP numbers.

She said: ‘We’ve now got five generations working in the NHS, so what generation one wants starting their working life is different to what generation five wants. When I go around the country speaking to trainees and  medical students, many say they weren’t encouraged to join general practice.

‘It’s not been a career aspiration for a decade and we’re losing GPs dramatically. We’re training three whole-time equivalent GPs but we have one who stays as a whole-time equivalent GP. We have to change that, we have to make the day job better and we have to make it more attractive.’

She cited a report published by the King’s Fund, which found that there were 3,067 places available for GP training in 2014 but this produced only 1,250 (40%) became full-time equivalent starters. 

Talking about funding in general practice through the new five-year GP contract, Dr Kanani added that the additional staff provided through the primary care networks will help support practice teams, given the ‘massively short supply of GPs and nurses’. 

As part of the contract, NHS England will fund 22,000 additional practice staff – including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing workers – by 2023/24.

Dr Kanani said: ‘We know there is a massively short supply because the working conditions haven’t been good enough for the plast 10 or 15 years. So we’re bringing in staff to support mutli-disciplinary teams but we’re still going to keep going with plans to recruit GPs and nurses.’

As part of the contract, NHS England will fund 22,000 additional practice staff – including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing workers – by 2023/24.

In 2015, then health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised to add at least 10,000 extra primary care staff, including 5,000 GPs, within five years. But Mr Hancock told Pulse earlier this year that although the target is still there it will not be met by 2020.

Data from NHS Digital released in February showed that the number of fully qualified FTE GPs has dropped by 2% pver the past year

It came after an analysis by the Health Foundation said worrying trends in the NHS workforce, including falling numbers of FTE GPs, will seriously hinder the Government’s plan to move care out of hospitals and into the community.

Meanwhile, a major report looking at NHS workforce gaps found that the NHS will have 7,000 fewer FTE GPs than needed within five year, despite a major focus on increasing GP trainee numbers by 2024.  

This article was changed. It originally said GP training places led to an equivalent of 65% FTE equivalent GPs – this was incorrect

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