HEE has repeatedly flagged the likelihood that it will fail to recruit enough GPs as ‘high-risk’ – and has consistently gone fallen short of its mandate to recruit 3,250 a year, which could spell problems for the government's pledge to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020.
For 2017/18, HEE has identified missing this target as the highest risk facing the organisation and set out initiatives to help mitigate this risk in a strategy document published on Tuesday.
The plans emerged on the same day HEE opened up re-advertisement for the first GP trainee recruitment round for 2017, which runs until 16 March.
The step-up in action comes as HEE faces a 20% reduction in its overall budget, although it has told GPonline that GP training spending will be protected from any cuts.
Part of the HEE plan to ensure trainees remain in hard-to-recruit areas is to develop post-CCT fellowships to act as a ‘fourth year of training’.
‘Discussions are taking place to support a "fourth year of training" either pre or post-CCT,’ said the HEE document. ‘Pre and post-CCT posts appear very similar. More than 66 post-CCT posts were appointed across England in 2015/16 with a similar number planned for 2016/17.
‘Further development and deployment will be targeted at the areas of greatest workforce need. A number of new models and funding solutions are emerging. Numerous CCGs continue to be interested in supporting pre or post-CCT posts as a recruitment initiative to their areas.’
The Targeted Enhanced Recruitment Scheme (TERS) – which offers students a one-off payment of £20,000 to work areas that have struggled to recruit – will also be expanded by 33% this year.
In 2016, the scheme’s inaugural year, 109 places were on offer. There will be 144 posts across eight localities on offer this year, meaning an additional £700,000 is available overall.
The scheme was popular last year, with 105 trainees entering the scheme, although HEE aired some worries that the scheme was merely shifting recruitment problems to nearby areas rather than solving the problem.
HEE confirmed that its Nothing General about General Practice campaign will continue throughout this year, having procured a marketing agency and forming plans to support the next round of recruitment.
Its chief executive Professor Ian Cummings said this year’s campaign was already underway, with a series of adverts currently running on radio station Capital FM and social media site Instagram.
The advertising campaign, which began in 2015 with a video featuring a GP signing a consent form for a patient to go skydiving, aims to ‘inspire and inform young medics about a career in general practice’.
Its current iteration features a number of GP trainee ambassadors talking about their experiences in GP training and what attracted them to the career.
HEE is also working on implementing a plan to raise the profile of GP careers in medical schools, following research demonstrating a link between increased teaching time in general practice and the likelihood of students to opt for GP careers.
Pilots are underway to develop new ‘GP assistant’ roles across north-west England, the north of England, parts of London and Yorkshire to ‘support with the administration burden in general practice’, much like a dental assistant would in a dental practice.
HEE said work to ‘fully consider the definition of the role’ was complete and it was now creating an ‘apprentice standard’ to further support development.
HEE said: ‘To achieve the 3,250 places per year HEE is working with a key group of GP directors/deans and workforce managers to assess and implement a range of recruitment changes to support increased flexibility of the GP recruitment processes and enable maximum recruitment into GP specialty training.’