Surge in Oxbridge F2 doctors choosing general practice, but targets still slipping

The proportion of Oxbridge F2 doctors choosing to enter GP training has tripled in the past year, official data reveal, but the government remains well short of its target to bring half of all medical students into general practice.

Just one third (34%) of F2 doctors finishing training in 2016 who intend to go straight into speciality training will opt to become GPs, according to the Career Destination Report for 2016.

The annual report, released by the Foundation Programme, is a mandatory UK-wide survey of all F2 doctors leaving training in August 2016 - over 7,000 this year - most of whom graduated from medical school in 2014.

Only 50% of F2s overall indicated they would advance straight into specialty or GP training, down from 71% five years ago in 2011.

GP training

These doctors may choose to work in hospital roles for a period before choosing further specialty training. The GPC has previously warned that pay structures introduced in the new junior doctor contract could leave many doctors who now enter GP training from other roles rather than direct from F2 facing a pay cut.

The proportion of doctors choosing to ‘take a career break’ after F2 training has also tripled from 4% to 13% since 2011. This suggests that just 17% of all doctors plan on going straight into GP training on completion of F2, with numbers comparable to last year.

The results follow a tumultuous year for junior doctors, which saw industrial action on disputes over their new contract, which was eventually pushed through regardless last October.

The universities in Keele, Brighton and then Norwich are the most likely to produce GPs, with at least a quarter of F2s going on to GP training posts after finishing general training.

These are followed by the University of Oxford in fourth place and the University of Cambridge in fifth.

GP workforce

The proportion of F2s opting for GP careers who graduated from the University of Oxford more than doubled from levels seen two years ago in 2014, climbing from just 9% to 23%.

Those who graduated from the University of Cambridge choosing GP tripled from 7% to 22%.

Both universities ranked in the bottom two for producing GPs in 2015, with rates significantly below other medical schools.

The unprecendented rise come after warnings last year that ‘institutional slang’ and speciality ‘hierarchies’ in medical schools were stigmatising general practice and putting off potential trainees.

Across the rest of the country, most medical schools saw the proportion of F2s opting for general practice fall, with many halving or more than halving compared to rates in 2015.

The University of Manchester produced the fewest future GPs, with only 8% moving on to GP training. The universities of Birmingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and King’s College London had 9% opting for GP training.

Around a fifth (19%) of European students and a similar rate of overseas students (21%) come to the UK to train as GPs, the report suggests.

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