Medical trainees will be given a further chance to apply for GP training next month, after Health Education England (HEE) opened up a third recruitment phase, the first time this has happened.
The decision comes after extremely poor uptake in the first two rounds left 451 GP trainee posts unfilled.
But GP leaders warned the ‘desperate’ measure would ‘not make a huge difference’ and was unlikely to pick up more than one or two recruits.
The third recruitment round will allow trainees another chance to apply for trainee GP posts in the February 2015 uptake.
HEE confirmed that applications will open on 2 September and will run for two weeks. First offers will be sent out to successful candidates on 20 October.
Doubts over plan
HEE said the third round had been introduced to drive up numbers in an attempt to reach its government-mandated target, which should see it ensure that by 2016, half of all medical trainees are entering GP training programmes. This represents 3,250 places on GP trainee courses.
This target has already been pushed back from 2015 following consistently poor uptake.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chairman of the GPC trainee subcommittee, was not optimistic the plan would attract many trainees. ‘If it hasn’t happened in the first two rounds, I doubt it will be different in the third,’ he said.
‘If it works, it will be great, but it’s desperate and I don’t think it will work.’
He said the unusual timing of the recruitment drive would only benefit the relatively few trainees who were ‘out of sync’ with the normal GP recruitment timetable and were not ready in time for the usual application period, for example owing to illness or maternity leave.
Posts left over from the first two rounds are ‘traditionally seen as the less popular ones’, he added. Many of these trainees ‘would rather wait six months until August and get a job working where they want to be and have much more choice.’
An HEE spokeswoman confirmed the third round of GP recruitment, adding: ‘Other measures include a review of the GP recruitment process, development of a pre-GP year for prospective applicants and careers advice for foundation doctors and medical students.’