GP trainee recruitment hampered by lack of future workforce clarity

Lack of consensus over the future size of the workforce is undermining efforts to train more GPs, Health Education England (HEE) has said.

GP trainees: lack of clarity over workforce demand (Photo: JH Lancy)
GP trainees: lack of clarity over workforce demand (Photo: JH Lancy)

In its submission to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), which advises the government on doctors' pay, HEE said GP registrars are already paid more than hospital equivalents in order to increase recruitment but that ‘pay is only part of the strategy’.

The report added that while measures to increase supply through higher pay were reasonable, those efforts were hampered by the lack of consensus over the future shape and size of the GP and wider primary care workforce.

‘We must quickly move to a position where the training we are commissioning is validated by reference to a transparent perspective of future need,' it said.

There was, it added, a lack of ‘compelling narrative on the future demand for GPs’.

HEE noted the forecast of the recent Centre for Workforce Intelligence study that if the target for 3,250 training places a year by 2016 were reached, it would sustain moderate annual growth to the GP workforce.

Call for 8,000 more GPs

The RCGP has repeatedly called for 8,000 new GPs in England by 2020, a target the Labour party has committed to. The government has said it will increase the workforce by 5,000.

An unprecedented ‘desperate’ third round of recruitment this year added just 72 extra trainees for 2014, bringing the total to just 2,688 for 3,067 available posts.

The government has required HEE to ensure 50% of medical students go into GP training. 

HEE said in its DDRB submission that Local Education Training Boards are proposing to recruit an additional 222 new GP trainees compared to the number they would have recruited if no expansion were planned.

Responding to a DH DDRB response earlier this month GPC chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the government had responded to the NHS funding crisis by cutting GP pay and that was ‘seriously impacting on GP recruitment’. DDRB should help address that ‘through a fair award to GPs’, he said. 

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