Proportion of doctors choosing GP careers has dropped, survey reveals

The proportion of UK trainee doctors choosing to train as GPs has fallen in the last year, amid a rise in the number of doctors postponing specialty training.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni (Photo: BMA)
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni (Photo: BMA)

According to the latest career destinations report compiled by the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO), the proportion of trainees planning to train as GPs fell from 21.4% in 2017 to 18.7% in 2018.

Doctors completing foundation training have also become less likely to go straight into speciality training - including for general practice - over the last eight years, dropping from 71% in 2011 to 38% last year.

Of the 2,434 doctors who went straight into UK speciality training in 2018, 31.8% were appointed to general practice, down from 35.8% in 2017. Of this group, 92.8% stated that general practice ‘was their first-choice speciality’.

Specialty training

The UKFPO report said: ‘The number of doctors intending to progress to specialty training, at the end of medical school, has progressively decreased over the last eight years.’

Although the authors said that doctors’ reasons for not immediately pursuing speciality training are unclear, it is thought that stress, burnout and a desire to travel could be contributing factors.

The report goes on to cite GMC data suggesting that the ‘majority of those who do not immediately enter specialty training post Foundation, do enter training within three years of completing Foundation.’

Overall, 6,407 responses from across all 20 UK foundation schools were collected for the survey.

GPC executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘While it is positive that GP recruitment has improved this year, the fact that fewer and fewer foundation doctors are choosing GP as a career overall is worrying. If that trend is not reversed, we do worry that GP workforce will continue to drop and the workload will become unmanageable for the ones left behind.’

Portfolio careers

Professor Sheona MacLeod, deputy medical director for education reform at Health Education England (HEE) said: 'Opportunities for portfolio-based careers, the chance to develop additional skills and recognition of less than full-time training for doctors are just some of the factors which have led to a decrease in the number of doctors at the end of medical school who are intending to progress as soon as possible into specialty training (including general practice). It highlights a change in attitude which is evident prior to entry into the UK Foundation Programme and this needs further exploration.'

Speaking at a Health and Social Care Committee meeting on Monday, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told MPs that a net expansion in the GP workforce may take 'several years' to deliver.

Further analysis of the performance and progression of UK medical students and trainee doctors in their education and future careers is being undertaken by the UK Medical Education Database (UKMED) project.

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