Official data suggest surge in GP recruitment as trainee applications open

Uptake in GP training posts has surged since last year, official data suggest, as Health Education England (HEE) launched a new phase of recruitment.

GP trainee: posts filled early (Photo: iStock)
GP trainee: posts filled early (Photo: iStock)

HEE's latest GP recruitment drive is advertising just 23% of the posts it did when applications first opened in November, suggesting uptake of GP trainee posts has been faster than at the same stage last year.

The GP training application process re-opened on Tuesday and prospective trainees have until 4pm Thursday 7 April to apply. This marks a re-advertising of round one of GP recruitment, for posts that begin in August 2016. The first application phase for this round ran from November to December 2015.

HEE figures on the GP National Recruitment Office (GPNRO) website suggest that after the first application phase the vast majority (77%) of posts in the UK have been filled.

The first round of recruitment last year saw 2,144 trainees sign up for posts. With another phase of applications for round one still to go this year, 291 additional trainees have signed up so far, suggesting a surge in recruitment.

GP training posts

London and Northern Ireland are advertised as having no GP training posts left available, while Scotland has just 3% unfilled.

It initially appeared that the North East region had filled nearly all of its trainee posts, but HEE later admitted there had been an 'error' on the GPNRO website. It is now advertising for 100 posts compared to the 192 it had open in November (48% filled), when it previously said just 10 were left.

The deanery reported the worst recruitment rates in the country last year, filling a mere 62% of its 192 posts last year after three full recruitment rounds.

HEE admitted last month that it was 'likely' to miss its mandated target of recruiting 3,250 doctors into GP training this year.

The current figures suggest 2,435 posts have been filled so far in England, meaning it needs to recuit 830 more across the re-advertisement of round one and whole of round two to meet the target.

Across the whole of the UK, 870 GP trainee posts are still being advertised.

A HEE spokeswoman said fill-rates of GP training places could not be confirmed until all recruitment rounds for the year were complete.

GP recruitment

There will be only two recruitment rounds this year, after two years of implementing a third in an attempt to boost numbers.

HEE said foundation doctors and medical students were ‘encouraged’ to choose general practice as their specialty.

‘A career in general practice offers far more opportunities than you might think, and there's nothing general about the specialty,’ the GPNRO website says.

A GP career is challenging, it says, with GPs not knowing what will be in store for them ahead of time each day. GPs have a range of opportunities available to them, are able to play a central role within families and communities and can study for specialist areas.

A sixth and final film in the #nothinggeneral campaign series takes a different tack to the previous films, which were met with a mixed response from GPs after showcasing GPs sign skydiving consent forms and perform asthma checks.

It interviews GP trainee Dr Duncan Shrewsbury, who explains why he chose a career in general practice.

‘I get to see people in the community getting better, changing, growing up, developing. It gives you such a sense of reward,’ he says.

Last year saw 348 posts left vacant across England – equivalent to one in 10 of overall posts that had been available.

Analysis of the uptake revealed a stark north-south divide, with areas like the north east struggling to fill even two thirds of available posts, while London and the Home Counties recruited trainees for all of their posts.

HEE director of quality Professor Simon Gregory said: ‘The first experience many people have of the NHS is with their GP.

‘It is a challenging career but one that provides a great opportunity to play a key role in meeting the health needs of diverse communities right across the country. Every day presents different diagnostic challenges with the opportunity to apply your medical expertise and skills to a wide range of conditions.’

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