UK GP trainees more likely to have state education than other specialties

UK GP trainees are proportionally the most likely to have attended state schools and the least likely to have had a private education compared to trainees from all other specialties, analysis shows.

Attending a private or grammar school ‘reduces the probability to be based in general practice with respect to any other specialty’ according to a Centre for Health Economics report compiling responses from over 40,000 trainees.

Secondary school type can be used as a basic proxy for socioeconomic background, suggesting that the current GP trainee cohort is less heavily composed of people from high income backgrounds compared to acute care, surgical, hospital-based and psychiatry specialties.

Less than a third (31%) of current UK-educated general practice trainees attended private schools, the smallest representation out of all medical specialties.

Close to half (44%) of surgical trainees attended private schools, while 37% of trainees did overall.

General practice also has the highest representation of state educated trainees, who account for 46% of the current cohort, compared to 40% of medical trainees overall.

The report shows that trainees who attended a private school are 1.8 times more likely to opt for a surgical specialty relative to general practice.

Female GP workforce

Over two thirds (69%) of GP trainees are female, suggesting the GP workforce is set to become significantly more female-dominated in coming years. Taking into account trainees from the UK alone, only a quarter (27%) are male.

The majority (79%) of GP trainees attended a UK university, while over two fifths (42%) are black or minority ethnic (BME). Some 5% are mature students.

The Centre for Health Economics wrote: ‘Our analysis shows that in respect of a number of socioeconomic and demographic characteristics there are substantial differences across specialties. Significant differences exist in regard to gender, ethnicity, schooling background and parental education.

‘All of these characteristics constitute potentially important signals of the representativeness of the medical profession and different specialties give very different signals.

‘In general, trainees from better-off socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to be based in general practice than in any other specialty. This might be the result of differences in preferences between socioeconomic groups in terms of characteristics of the specialties, potential earnings and other non-pecuniary benefits of the alternatives.

‘However, those differences might also have foundations in the secondary school, or as previous literature suggests in the medical school attended.’

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