Editorial: New GMS contract needs a shot in the arm

This week GP exclusively reveals that the number of doctors applying to train for general practice has fallen by a third.

For the first time ever the national GP recruitment office did not have enough eligible applicants and was forced to run a second recruitment round to fill almost 300 vacancies.

The situation is in stark contrast to 2005 when there was an unprecedented upswing in applications. Ironically, this comes as the DoH has bold plans to expand GP training.

So why do fewer doctors want to be GPs? One theory is that registrars' pay is below the junior hospital doctor average thanks to a supplement cut. But there are many more.

GP has already reported this year young GPs' unhappiness about the lack of partnerships available to them.

Listening to the debate and talking to GPs at last month's LMCs conference in London, it seems enthusiasm for the new GMS contract has worn thin. One GP said that her income was now no more than when the new GMS contract was implemented in 2004.

While its arrival allowed the option to opt out of 24-hour responsibility, there is now the very real possibility that out-of-hours could be reintroduced under commissioning in some form.

Independent contractor status is also threatened as managers strive to cope with inevitable NHS funding cuts.

How long before a return to dark days of GP shortages prior the new GMS contract?

The contract needs a shot in the arm and incentivising practices to take on partners, backed at last week's BMA annual representatives' meeting (page 18), would be a great place to start.

Partnerships offer the continuity of care that patients value and job satisfaction for GPs. The hope of one at the end of GP training might be enough to persuade more people to join the profession.

The DoH will only end up with egg on its face if it cannot fill its extra training places because becoming a GP is no longer an attractive career option

Read more opinion from the GP editorial team in the editor's blog

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