Health education chiefs identify 5,000-GP recruitment target as 'greatest risk'

Possible failure to recruit enough GP trainees this year to meet government workforce targets is the 'greatest risk' facing Health Education England (HEE), according to board papers.

Board papers outlining the risks facing HEE identify the likelihood of it missing its mandated target to attract half of trainees into GP training posts as the ‘greatest risk’ to the organisation.

The government’s mandate to HEE requires it to ensure that 3,250 trainee doctors enter GP training programmes in 2016, with a view to delivering an additional 5,000 doctors in general practice by 2020.

The risk warning comes despite vacancy figures earlier this month suggesting that recruitment into GP training posts has surged to unprecedented highs this year.

The risk that HEE could miss that target is flagged as a red alert on HEE’s corporate risk register, signifying it is highly likely and failing to achieve it would have a ‘major impact’.

HEE said it had taken several actions in an attempt to mitigate this risk, including forming a GP recruitment task and finish group, launching the nothing general marketing campaign and promoting the induction and refresher scheme to tempt returners and overseas doctors into general practice.

It also commissioned GP Professor Valerie Wass to chair a working group to look at raising the profile of careers in general practice in medical schools, with results due in autumn.

GP recruitment

The other risks facing HEE – which have been categorised as lower in risk – include those to do with the workforce plan, IT infrastructure, supply of clinical staff and bursary payments.

It added that it had recently identified two new risks that ‘relate to the outcome of the EU referendum’, which have yet to be assessed and given a risk score.

The group is looking into the possibility of sourcing more international doctors to boost GP numbers.

HEE said in the papers: 'There is a risk that HEE will not be able to attract sufficient trainees into GP training to meet mandate requirements.'

It added: 'HEE is committed to transforming primary care by increasing the multi-disciplinary workforce working within primary care by 10,000 by 2020.

'The GP Forward View was jointly published in April 2016 and contains a number of commitments relating to workforce within general practice which NHS England and HEE are working collaboratively to deliver.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This comes as no surprise and we need really to question why it is that young doctors are still not choosing to enter general practice in sufficient numbers.

‘That, fundamentally, is about the workload pressures in general practice and the need for more funding to support an expansion of the workforce as a whole in a variety of different ways and to deliver better services to patients through tat funding expansion.

‘Until we see the tangible delivery of significant amounts of the £2.4bn that were promised in the Forward View, then young doctors won't be convinced that NHS England are truly committed to general practice long term.

‘We have to see that delivery as quickly as possible and then, I'm sure, we’ll start to turn around the workforce crisis.’

Photo: iStock

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