Official documents indicate that the NHS faces major difficulties with recruiting a satisfactory number of doctors.
Indeed, board papers state that the possible failure to recruit enough GP trainees in the coming year could be the greatest problem that Health Education England has to tackle.
There is apparent scepticism that it will be possible for the organisation to meet government workforce targets in the existing climate.
Health Education England has set the mandated target of attracting half of trainees into GP training posts.
But board papers indicate that this figure is unlikely to be met, and that this would pose a massive problem for the overall plans of the organisation.
According to the government mandate, Health Education England should ensure that 3,250 trainee doctors enter GP training programmes in 2016.
This is part of the overall policy of delivering an additional 5,000 doctors in general practice by the end of the decade.
Health Education England commented explicitly in the papers on the training difficulties that the organisation faces in the coming months.
“There is a risk that Health Education England will not be able to attract sufficient trainees into GP training to meet mandate requirements. Health Education England is committed to transforming primary care by increasing the multi-disciplinary workforce working within primary care by 10,000 by 2020.”
Commenting on the issue, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey was unsurprised by the official figures, and suggested that Health Education England must research precisely why young people are not attracted to a career in general practice.
“This comes as no surprise and we need really to question why it is that young doctors are still not choosing to enter general practice in sufficient numbers. That, fundamentally, is about the workload pressures in general practice and the need for more funding to support an expansion of the workforce as a whole in a variety of different ways and to deliver better services to patients through tat funding expansion.”
Vautrey also gave his view on the critical direction which recruitment must take in the foreseeable future if general practice is not to suffer.
“Until we see the tangible delivery of significant amounts of the £2.4bn that were promised in the Forward View, then young doctors won’t be convinced that NHS England are truly committed to general practice long term. We have to see that delivery as quickly as possible and then, I’m sure, we’ll start to turn around the workforce crisis.”
This latest warning can perhaps be offset slightly by figures released earlier this month which indicated that recruitment into GP training posts has increased significantly this year as compared to the previous 12-month period.