More than one in 10 GP trainee posts vacant despite 180 recruits in final round

This year's third round of GP recruitment attracted 180 successful applicants to posts, Health Education England (HEE) has revealed, but GP leaders warned fill rates in some regions remain 'worryingly' low as 348 posts remain vacant.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni: fill rate worryingly low in parts of England
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni: fill rate worryingly low in parts of England

A total of 180 new GP trainees – almost four times the number of last year’s uptake of 47 – were accepted into posts following a third round of GP recruitment, the second time HEE has run the initiative. Historically, junior doctors were given only two chances to apply for GP training each year.

The new recruits mean overall GP fill rates for the year are up two percentage points compared to 2014, increasing from 87% of posts filled to 89%, according to HEE. Finalised data for the year show that 2,769 out of 3,117 available posts have been filled.

But, while some parts of England enjoyed 100% fill rates, GP leaders pointed to ‘worrying shortages’ in other regions.

In the north east of England, two in five available places remain vacant, as do three in 10 in the East Midlands and two in 10 in the north west of England and the West Midlands. All posts were filled in the east of England, south west, Sussex and in Thames Valley. In London, 98% of posts were filled.

GP trainees

Professor Simon Gregory, director of education and quality at HEE’s Midlands and East training board, said: ‘We are pleased to see the increase in the number of acceptances onto GP training this year.

‘Figures have improved in nearly all areas across the country, and we have a 100% success rate in four regions.

‘However, we know that there is more to do in parts of the country where attracting GPs continues to be a challenge. This is something that we will focus our efforts on over the coming months.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chairman of the GPC training and workforce committee, described the results as a ‘step in the right direction’ – but he warned that ‘worrying shortages’ remained.

‘We are pleased that the government is finally listening to the BMA’s input on how to attract young doctors into the profession,’ he said.

Areas unfilled

‘The halt in declining GP recruitment this year as a result of BMA’s intervention in the 10-point plan is only the first stage. There is a very long way to go before we fully address the problems facing the GP workforce.

‘A broader crisis continues to grip general practice because of rising workload, falling resources and excessive box ticking. This keeps GPs away from what they want to do, which is treating patients.

‘We need the government to understand these fundamental problems; only when they are addressed will we see a long term, positive end to the workforce pressures that are undermining patient care.’

HEE said it was also engaging in a number of other schemes to encourage more GPs and students into the profession.

These include ‘step on, step off’ training opportunities – which allow for ‘increased flexibility in training’ – and a scheme called PST GP, which gives junior doctors the chance to work for a year in general practice to explore what the career can offer.

GP returners

It also runs the Induction and Refresher (I&R) scheme to help ease doctors returning to general practice back into the NHS. Applicants can apply for bursaries and funding and are provided with a consistent local point of contact.

Registrar Kym Merritt, a GP Ambassador for HEE, said: ‘Being a GP is a fantastic career choice. What other job can reward you with making a real difference to the lives of people from the very young to the elderly?

‘For me the role is exciting, rewarding, varied, unpredictable, emotional and challenging but amazing. It really is the best job in the world.’

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