Intended for healthcare professionals


Only a third of adverts for vocational trainees result in an appointment

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 19 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:514
  1. Alexandern Nicholson
  1. Trainee general practitioner Griminish Surgery, Benbecula, Western Isles PA88 5QA

    EDITOR,--There has been much in the medical press lately concerning the falling popularity of vocational training for general practice. The practice in which I work advertised in the issue of the BMJ published on 4 February for a trainee to start in August. There was little interest, so six weeks after the advertisement appeared I wrote to all the other practices that had advertised in that issue to determine their experiences.

    I sent out a letter with a questionnaire printed on the reverse, and I enclosed a stamped addressed envelope to encourage replies. Practices were asked the number of inquiries that had resulted from the advertisement, the number of applications that had resulted from the advertisement, whether a trainee had been appointed, and if applicable, whether the appointment had been a result of the advertisement. Comments were also invited. Practices that were in the process of appointing someone were contacted six weeks after their initial reply to gain an accurate record of events.

    Forty six practices were questioned, and 43 replied (response rate 93%). Twenty two practices had had no inquiries, 26 had had no applications, and 29 had failed to appoint a trainee (table).


    Distribution of inquiries about, and applicants for, 43 posts for vocational trainees in general practice advertised in “BMJ,” and number of appointments made. Figures are numbers of practices

    View this table:

    The results do much to confirm fears about recruitment of trainees in general practice, and the high response rate may show a measure of concern over this issue. Perhaps the most interesting information came from the comments added by almost every respondent, some of whom wrote accompanying letters. Many expressed concern for the future of general practice, some fearing that the situation reflects a perception of low morale dating from the introduction of the new contract in 1990. There was a suggestion that newly qualified doctors previously keen on a career in general practice are taking time out until “new general practice is sorted out.” Two practices were to have no trainee for the first time in 10 and 14 years, while another, having advertised unsuccessfully in the BMJ twice, eventually received applications through a European journal.

    Whatever the reasons, this simple survey provides objective evidence of an impending dearth of vocationally trained general practitioners, which requires urgent attention.