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HEE admits GP trainee recruitment target may be missed

Health Education England (HEE) may be set to break with its 2015-16 mandate as it admitted there is risk it will not be able to attract enough GP trainees this year.

In last week’s board papers, HEE officials gave the GP trainee recruitment scheme a ‘red’ risk score, showing it might not be able to attract the planned amount of GPs to ensure there is a minimum of 3,250 trainees recruited this year, as per NHS England’s mandate.

This comes just a few months after HEE announced a “big jump” in the number of GPs accepted for the third round of training last year. There were a total of 108 GPs accepted, nearly four times last year’s figure of 47.

The first round of GP recruitment this year is currently underway for August intake, but HEE has already said it will not hold a third recruitment round again this year. The second round of recruitment will see GPs working from February 2017.

Yet the decision to slash the third round of training came on the same day as NHS England and HEE opened up a one-off £20,000 bursary opportunity for more than 100 GP trainees who were willing to be sent to unpopular regions where recruitment has been notoriously difficult.

The 109 training places, identified by HEE as having the lowest fill rates between 2013 and 2015, formed part of the national body’s Targeted Enhancement Recruitment Scheme.

HEE’s board papers also listed other past and ongoing attempts at increasing the number of GP trainee take-up – such as forming the GP Recruitment 2016 Task and Finish Group, developing “eleven workstreams” to bring “innovative change” to recruitment, ‘step on step off’ training, active management of round three offers, standalone academic opportunities and international recruitment.

It is also collaborating with the BMA, NHS England and the Royal College of GPs on the #nothinggeneral joint marketing campaign which aims to promote the GP career by putting interested people in touch with practising doctors.

By the end of March this year, HEE also expects to finish developing post-CCT Fellowship models, which will provide GPs with better opportunities for development in consultancy, research, education and training, leadership or emergency medicine.

An induction and refresher scheme will also be rolled out to ensure returners or overseas doctors who are moving to England can safely return to practice.

In a statement to NHE, an HEE spokeswoman said they cannot yet publish information on fill rates ahead of this year's completed rounds, but said the organisation had to flag the risks to its executive team.

"But it [the board paper] also states the work being done to mitigate against this risk," she added. "Through the work of the 10 Point Plan, HEE is working with partners including NHS England, RCGP and the BMA GPs committee to increase numbers of GPs and make sure we have a skilled, trained and motivated workforce.

"This work focuses on three key areas: improving recruitment into general practice; retaining doctors within general practice; and supporting those who wish to return to general practice.

"HEE is leading on some of the key aspects of the plan including promoting general practice, improving the breadth of training, training hubs, new ways of working (increasing multi-professions) and the induction and refresher scheme."

Overall, the government mandate to HEE for 2015-16 told it “ensure a minimum of 3,250 trainees per year – equating to approximately half of the annual number of trainees completing foundation training and moving into specialisations – are recruited to GP training programmes in England by 2016”.

Last year health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP also promised to recruit, alongside HEE, another 5,000 GPs by 2020 in return for seven-day services.


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