33% fall in doctors applying for general practice

Exclusive - GPs say incentivising practices to take on partners would make general practice more attractive.

The number of doctors applying to train for UK general practice has fallen by a third to 6,000 this year.

After the first recruitment round hundreds of vacancies remained unfilled.

For the first time ever, the National Recruitment Office for GP Training did not have enough eligible applicants and was forced to run a second recruitment round to fill almost 300 vacancies.

Some training posts will remain unfilled this year after the recruitment office failed to find suitable applicants in the second round.

The plummeting numbers applying for general practice come as GP training programmes are poised for a huge expansion.

GP registrar posts in England are set to rise from 2,700 in 2009 to 3,300 in 2011.

The sharp drop in applications will fuel moves to stop year-on-year reductions in the registrar's supplement.

The Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body recommended a drop in the supplement to 45 per cent this year after recruitment remained strong in 2008. But registrars claim that the drop from 65 per cent has driven recruitment down.

Dr James Parsons, a GP registrar in Sheffield and a member of the GPC trainees subcommittee, says that registrars' pay is 'below the average that junior hospital doctors get'.

'People are really hacked off with the cut in pay year on year. It is an immediate deterrent.'

The BMA is surveying GP registrars on their hours and work intensity.

An NHS Employers spokesman said: 'We do not believe that take-up of GP training places is directly related to the supplement change.'

It wants the registrar supplement better aligned with hospital supplements. Once hospital doctors comply with the European working time directive, their supplements will range from 0-50% of salary.

GP asked its GP35 panel of 35 GPs aged under 35 for their views.

Nottingham GP Dr Mona Kular said: 'Incentives for practices to take on partners might help as a lot of newly-qualified GPs find themselves only able to get salaried posts in which they often feel abused or used as a workhorse. The introduction of extended hours means as a career it's less attractive.'

West Yorkshire GP Dr Johnson D'souza said: 'I would like to see either a definitive role as a partner by the end of training to be facilitated by the deaneries or RCGP federated models, with no divide between partners and salaried GPs.'

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