GP shortage: study shows factors associated with choosing to apply

Dr Thomas Gale said that understanding these associated factors could help policy makers understand who is more likely to go into the profession:

The government is currently deciding how many extra medical students should be allocated to medical schools across the country, and, as it’s looking to up GP numbers, it would be useful to focus resources towards schools that promote GP training.

A new study shows that junior doctors are more likely to apply to be a general practitioner (GP) if they are female, non-white, from a lower socio-economic class background and UK secondary educated.

The research, conducted by the University of Plymouth, also showed that white males with particularly high academic attainment are less likely to train as GPs.

Analysing statistics available from the UK Medical Education Database (UKMED), the research team also highlighted that even after adjusting for these factors; both the medical school and the foundation school that the doctor had attended were independently related to the odds of applying to GP training.

The study comes at a time when the government is looking to increase GP training posts to 50 per cent of all training posts, and to widen participation in the professions among historically under-represented groups.

The data showed that of 7,634 doctors in the sample, 43 per cent applied to GP training alongside other specialty applications and 26 per cent applied solely to GP training.

The UK Medical Education Database (UKMED) provides a unique platform for collating data on the performance of UK medical students and trainee doctors across their education and future career.

Lead researcher, Dr Thomas Gale, said that understanding these associated factors could help policy makers understand who is more likely to go into the profession. He said: 

“The government is currently deciding how many extra medical students should be allocated to medical schools across the country, and, as it’s looking to up GP numbers, it would be useful to focus resources towards schools that promote GP training. 
"Our findings suggest that the supply and demand imbalance in UK primary care might be improved by efforts to attract greater numbers of female, non-white and UK secondary-educated students into medical schools, and targeting resources at medical and foundation schools that deliver doctors likely to fill significant gaps in the workforce. By analysing this comprehensive dataset, we’ve outlined individual characteristics and educational factors associated with people applying, but further research is required to better understand inter-school differences and to develop strategies to improve recruitment of GP trainees.”

The full study, entitled Factors associated with junior doctors’ decisions to apply for general practice training programmes in the UK: secondary analysis of data from the UKMED project, was conducted by Dr Thomas Gale, Dr Paul Lambe and Martin Roberts from the Collaboration for the Advancement of Medical Education Research and Assessment (CAMERA) research team at the University of Plymouth. It is now available to view in BMC Medicine (doi: 10.1186/s12916-017-0982-6).

Collaboration for the Advancement of Medical Education Research and Assessment (CAMERA)

We seek to inform assessment across medical education through funded collaborative research that impacts on the international literature, educational theory, practice and policy at Plymouth Peninsula, nationally and internationally.

CAMERA brings together a research group dedicated to the improvement of healthcare through evidence based education.

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