Many training places for new GPs may have been left unfilled, jeopardising a Government target to have 5,000 more family doctors working in the NHS by 2020 / PA

Information released by HEE’s Scottish counterpart at the end of June indicated that one in five training places across the UK was unfilled

Many training places for new GPs, who begin work this week, may have been left unfilled, jeopardising a Government target to have 5,000 more family doctors working in the NHS by 2020.

Despite the imminent start of new GP training placements, Health Education England, the national body responsible for medical training, is yet to officially confirm how many places remain unfilled.

However, information released by HEE’s Scottish counterpart at the end of June indicated that one in five training places across the UK was unfilled. Despite a lack of official information since then, doctors union the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was “clear” that recruitment was falling short of targets.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the BMA’s Education, Training and Workforce subcommittee and a GP near Rotherham, said many areas were “facing the prospect of practices not having enough GPs to treat the rising number of patients coming through the surgery door.”

“The general practice workforce is being squeezed from both ends of the career spectrum,” he said. “A third of current GPs told a recent BMA survey they intend to retire in the next five years while new medical graduates appear reluctant to enter the profession.”

HEE was unable to confirm the current fill rate for training places, but has launched a third round of recruitment, with trainees in this cohort now likely to start work in February 2016.

Last year, in the most under-subscribed areas, including the East Midlands and North East England, nearly a third of places were left unfilled.

An HEE spokesperson said: “The overall number of GPs is increasing and we are also on track to provide 3,250 training places a year by 2016. Our workforce planning forecasts take into account a variety of factors such as attrition and expected retirement rates.

“HEE is looking at encouraging doctors to train in areas where it has traditionally been difficult to recruit GPs. This will be through offering pre-GP training and additional training post-general practice in areas like psychiatry and paediatrics.” 

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