Deaneries are failing to address recruitment problems in general practice while boosting hospital doctor numbers, according to an investigation published today in Pulse magazine.
The magazine’s investigation has found that deaneries have created hundreds more training places for hospital doctors but only eight more GP training places across the UK this year.
The fall in the proportion of GP trainees compared with hospital trainees across the UK comes at the same time as falling numbers of GP training places in England.
In May, the government announced it was setting a target of a 20% increase in GP training places by 2015.
Pulse obtained information showing that the new Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) are dominated by hospitals' representatives, which it said added to growing concerns over a secondary care bias in educational bodies.
Figures from the GP National Recruitment Office (GPNRO) show 3,152 offers were accepted for GP trainee positions this year across the UK, compared with 3,144 offers last year – just eight more – despite a 6% rise in applications in 2012.
In England, there was a decrease of three GP places compared with the previous year, with 2,693 GP training places accepted in 2012.
In contrast, there was a rise of almost 700 in hospital training places in England, with 4,725 places accepted, compared with 4,034 in 2011.
This year's intake will be the last carried out by deaneries because LETBs are due to be authorised from October.
Pulse surveyed 11 LETBs and found that most have stuck to the minimum requirement for authorisation that there are at least 10% of GPs on their boards.
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada told the magazine that the college would soon publish a 10-year strategy recommending an increase in GP numbers, adding: “We've estimated that we need 10,000 GPs over the next 10 years just to stand still, which equates to about one more GP per practice.”
Professor Bill Irish, chair of the GPNRO and director of GP education at Severn Deanery, said the new figures were worrying because hospital specialists were already being overproduced by 60%.
“People on boards are not going to support a cut to hospital specialties, which would be a cut to their own income streams. LETBs are configured in such a way that there are vested interests, and we need a strong voice for primary care,” he said.
A Department of Health spokesperson said they would be asking LETBs to plan to increase the number of GP training posts steadily towards 2015.