THE proportion of unfilled GP training places in certain parts of the UK is at its “worst ever”, with up to a third of positions still vacant.
The worst affected area is the East Midlands where only 62 per cent of posts for the August 2014 intake had been filled by the end of May. Figures from Health Education England (HEE) show the Northern region and Merseyside have also had difficulties, with fill rates of 71 per cent and 72 per cent respectively. In contrast, London has filled 99 per cent of its posts.
In England, 2,630 positions have been filled – 89 per cent of the total number available. This compares to a fill rate of 99 per cent for each of the past three years.
Northern Ireland fared better with 97 per cent of posts filled this year, 91 per cent were filled in Wales and 90 per cent in Scotland.
The BMA’s GP Committee (GPC) described the figures as the “worst ever”.
The shortfalls could impact on the target set by the Government to ensure half of medical students become GPs by 2016. That target had originally been set for 2015 but was last month pushed back to 2016 following a 15 per cent drop in applications for GP trainee places.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “These figures are deeply concerning and represent a serious threat to the delivery of effective GP services to patients. They show that we are experiencing serious shortfalls in the number of doctors choosing to train to become GPs, which will ultimately mean fewer GPs entering the workforce across large parts of the UK, most worryingly in already under doctored areas such as the North and the Midlands.”
A spokeswoman for HEE said: “The number of GP training posts has been increased in 2014 to support our mandate requirement. We are doing further work to improve the number of applications and fill rate to support that mandate target to provide a total of 3,250 GP training places. This work includes a review of the GP recruitment process, development of a pre-GP year for prospective applicants, and careers advice for foundation doctors and medical students.”