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General practice training may be extended by another year

Plan to align general practice training with other medical specialty training is included in Health Education England’s draft workforce strategy

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Health Education England (HEE) is considering extended general practice training by a year to make it four years, to match the length of other medical specialty training.

The plan is included in HEE’s draft workforce strategy, Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future, A health and care workforce strategy for England to 2027.

The draft strategy takes an uncompromising look at the challenges faced by the health and care system, charting the growth in the NHS workforce over the last five years while setting out the critical workforce challenges that will be faced over the next decade.

It says: “General Practice is currently the shortest specialty training programmes and HEE believes that we should further evaluate, with partners, the case for an extra training year.” 

The report acknowledges that general practice is one of the medical areas were numbers are falling, with numbers having fallen 1% since 2012.

It points out that the government has announced 1,500 more medical school places from 2018, targeted at recruiting to shortage specialties such as psychiatry and general practice, and that “2017 was a record year for doctors choosing GP training with 3,157 trainees recruited, ensuring additional supply to complement an extensive range of NHS England actions to retain current GPs and recruit new ones”.

The report highlights other measures undertaken to improve GP uptake, such as offering study years abroad, overseas recruitment programmes and commits to better recognising long-term locum doctors in workforce planning as increasing number of GPs are opting for locum careers.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: "We are encouraged to see the emphasis on general practice, particularly the proposals for enhanced GP specialty training to include a fourth year focused in the general practice setting. This is something that the College has long been campaigning for and will undoubtedly make our new GPs of the future more confident as well as competent in managing the complexity that is modern day general practice.

"General practice keeps the rest of the NHS standing but GP workload has risen by 16% over the last seven years, while the GP workforce has remained largely stagnant.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “We want the NHS to be an attractive and supportive employer, and for staff to have a safe and manageable workload, but we know that many doctors are struggling with stress and burnout. As many parts of the NHS struggle to recruit and retain staff, it is vital to understand and address the reasons for this, which can often include excessive workloads, low morale and a lack of investment in overstretched services.

“Brexit also poses a new workforce challenge which could compound existing problems, which is why we need a flexible immigration system which enables the recruitment of medical staff from across the world.”

“Most importantly, the solutions that arise from this consultation must be genuinely deliverable and matched with the necessary investment. It is imperative that the government gets to grips with the current workforce crisis - failing to act will result in the NHS being unable to attract and retain the necessary doctors and staff to meet the population’s health needs, and it is patients who will suffer as a result.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “NHS staff are our health service’s greatest asset, but for too long, governments of all parties have taken a short-termist approach to NHS workforce planning. We need a proper plan that stretches beyond any electoral cycle, and secures the supply of NHS staff for future generations. This important work kickstarts that process.”

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