Time to open doors to rush of would-be GPs

Good news: lots of medical graduates want to work in general practice.

Bad news: there aren't enough training places so they are working in other specialties.

Those two statements typify the lack of cohesive thinking about primary care. Imagine explaining to a Martian, or in fact any relatively sane human being, that there is a country where there is a shortage of GPs, where there are suitable candidates wanting to become GPs, where the government wants it to be easier for patients to see GPs, and yet where underfunding from that same government means these potential GPs can't find training places.

A GMC survey of 1,173 recent medical graduates found 24 per cent wanted to be GPs but had ended up in a different specialty.

Indeed, although studies tell us that 40 per cent of graduates now describe general practice as their preferred career option, only 6 per cent in the GMC survey were actually working in it.

The lack of training places has been exacerbated in the past couple of years by cuts to deanery funding, but even if intake had remained at earlier levels, it would not be enough to either meet the needs of these young medics or of a profession rapidly heading to a retirement bulge. Recruitment crises are normally caused by a poor supply of candidates. The idea that there is both a demand for and supply of young would-be GPs is a nonsensical situation. The logical flow is blocked by bureaucracy and a lack of central funds.

The mantra surrounding the recent health White Paper is that primary care and access to primary care doctors are central to the delivery of a modern, responsive NHS. The whole profession awaits an answer on how this will be achieved if the government insists on restricting the flow of talent into that very area of healthcare.

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