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Rising numbers of people training to be GPs

Figures for Scotland show 92% of all medical training places are filled

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 02 December 2019

Recruitment figures for Scotland published today show that 92% of all 1,131 medical training posts advertised in 2019 are filled, which is the highest level for five years.

Data published by NHS Education for Scotland shows that the number of people applying to specialise in general practice has increased with 325 posts filled from the 340 advertised – 33 more than in 2018.

In GP training posts, which were previously seen as hard to fill and which are eligible for the £20,000 Scottish Government bursary, the number of applications has risen 21%.

The data also shows clinical radiology and medical oncology have 100% fill rates, both of which will support the country’s Waiting Times Improvement Plan. They are two of 37 medical specialties in which every place is taken. Last year, that figure was 29.

Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am delighted that Scotland’s frontline healthcare will see the highest number of trainee GPs in post since 2015. This continues to reflect Scotland’s reputation as a country with a first-class medical education system with flexible training opportunities for our junior doctors.

“It is particularly encouraging to see more GP trainee posts filled in previously ‘hard to fill’ locations thanks to our GP Specialty Training Bursary.

“We recognise that there are still ongoing challenges when it comes to recruiting to certain medical specialties and geographical areas, and we are continuing to address these issues.

“That is why we are to increase the number of undergraduate places by 22% by 2020-21 and also increase the number of Foundation places across 2021 and 2022.”

Professor Rowan Parks, medical director of NHS Education for Scotland, said: “This is a great tribute to the hard work of consultants and general practitioners across the whole of Scotland, who continue to ensure that doctors training here have a great experience and the best possible training.

“We welcome the continued improvement in fill rates for training posts across Scotland this year. There are many challenges, but everyone involved is working hard to ensure the most attractive and highest quality training environment for Scotland's junior doctors.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) gave a cautious welcome to the figures with its chair of the BMA Scotland GP committee Dr Andrew Buist saying: “While we believe there is promise here in terms of the pipeline of doctors, and attracting people into the profession – including hard to fill specialties and GP training – we want to see a credible plan from the Scottish Government to deliver on its commitments for 800 additional GPs by 2027.

“These figures may point someway to the first small steps on the right path. It is clear that more needs to be done. If these figures do translate into more doctors – which Scotland desperately needs – the real benefit won’t be felt by doctors on the frontline – or the patients they care for – for several years. That’s why we absolutely must focus on retaining the doctors we already have.

“So that means improving work life balance, protected training opportunities, and genuine action to actually reverse the years of pay decline the profession has experienced.”

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