Data from Health Education for Scotland show that of 3,641 GP training posts available across the UK, just 80% have been filled after two rounds of recruitment.
The findings suggest that far from increasing GP trainee recruitment as the government has pledged, interest in general practice has dropped.
Last year the government was forced to spend more than £100,000 to run an unprecendented third round of recruitment to fill GP training posts after filling just 85.8% of posts in England after two rounds.
GP training posts unfilled
Health Education England has yet to publish data on uptake of posts in England, but the data from Health Education for Scotland suggest a dip in the fill rate.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by the end of the current parliament, although he admitted recently that this was the maximum he believed the health service could possibly manage.
The latest GP trainee data show this target is looking increasingly challenging. The government has pledged to make sure that half of all medical students opt for GP training by 2016, and plans for 3,250 trainees a year to be in GP training annually from next year.
GPonline revealed earlier this month that plans to increase the GP workforce are further complicated by a huge retirement bulge facing the NHS in parts of the country, with more than one in four GPs aged over 60 in some CCG areas.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, GPC’s education, training and workforce lead, said the figures were ‘very disappointing’.
‘This is yet another warning shot to clearly demonstrate that unless the GP workload problems are addressed, there will not be a positive narrative about general practice,’ he warned.
‘The numbers have dropped from last year, which essentially goes to show that if at the grass roots-level GPs don’t feel the difference, they can't really express that to their trainees and medical students. So I'm not really surprised the numbers are low.
‘The time has now come for the powers-that-be to acknowledge that unless you deal with workload first, recruit levels will never pick up. If trainees don’t feel like things are improving, they're not going to encourage their peers to join; it’s as simple as that.’