ONLY a quarter of medical graduates say general practice is their first choice of specialty amid concerns over a workforce shortfall.
A new study shows 28 per cent of graduates made general practice their first choice career compared with 71 per cent who chose secondary care specialties. This falls well short of the target of 50 per cent of training places allocated for GPs by 2015 which was set by the former health secretary Andrew Lansley.
The figures, revealed in the Medical Teacher journal, were based on more than 9,000 questionnaire responses from people who qualified in 2005, 2008 and 2009, one year after they graduated. They were asked to state their long-term career preferences.
The study revealed a considerable difference between the choice of male and female graduates. In each cohort, around 24 per cent of men opted for general practice while the numbers showed a decline amongst women. In 2009, 36 per cent of female graduates chose general practice, a fall on the 2005 figure of 40 per cent.
The researchers concluded: “General practice is still substantially under-represented in [newly qualified doctors’] preferences.”
Oxford University professor Michael Goldacre, who lead the study, told Pulse there was “some cause for concern” about the figures.
He said: “Clearly we observe that a much smaller percentage express a preference for a career in general practice than the NHS actually needs.
“We note that the deficit is eventually likely to be made up by the fact that doctors will go where the training places and jobs are. That is a mitigating factor.”
Professor Mayur Lakhani, a former chair of the RCGP and a GP in Leicestershire, added: “Workforce planning has gone terribly wrong. The system should have been producing more GPs. Instead it has been producing more consultants. The needs of patients are clear – they need more generalists.”