Many GP training posts remain vacant

MORE than 10 per cent of GP training posts in England remain vacant despite the launch earlier this year of a third recruitment round.

New figures from Health Education England show an overall vacancy level of 12.4 per cent. In some areas, unfilled GP training posts are as high as 30 per cent – although this is an improvement on June’s figure of 40 per cent.

The final August 2014 intake stands at 2,688, which is 88 per cent of the total places available. This is a 2.7 per cent decrease on the number of posts filled in 2013. It also falls short of HEE’s target of bringing 3,250 trainees into general practice per year by 2016 – a deadline which has already been pushed back from the original date of August 2015.

GP leaders have expressed fears that HEE will struggle to meet its targets unless key issues are addressed.

The latest figures from HEE, revealed in Pulse, show that Health Education East Midlands and Health Education North East have both filled only 70 per cent of available training places, while HE Yorkshire and the Humber has a quarter of posts empty.

The best performing areas include London Recruitment (LSS) at 98 per cent of posts filled, HE Thames Valley and HE West Midlands both at 97 per cent, and HE Kent, Surrey and Sussex at almost 95 per cent.

Among the solutions proposed by HEE are a review of the GP recruitment process, the development of a “pre-GP” year for prospective applicants and careers advice for foundation doctors and medical students.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash told Pulse HEE were unlikely to hit their 2016 target of filling 3,250 places.

She said: “Unless they address the fundamental problems that general practice faces - which are not just about recruitment, but also retention - then we’re not going to get anywhere close to [NHS England chief executive] Simon Steven’s plan for more GPs.

“They need to address the urgency of this situation and actually start investing in core general practice and making it an attractive career. Unless they address the issues of workflow, patient demand, and funding stability, we will not reverse from this unfortunate place.”

A spokesperson for Health Education England said: “We have increased GP training posts in 2014 to support our mandate requirement to provide a total of 3,250 posts by 2016. We are doing further work to improve the number of applications and fill rate and looking at innovative programmes to improve recruitment into GP training.”