Intended for healthcare professionals


Fewer foundation doctors are going straight into specialty training, says GMC

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 25 July 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4128
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}

Fewer junior doctors are entering further specialty training directly after completing their second year of foundation training (F2), the General Medical Council has found.

On 21 July the GMC published research and data on doctors’ progression through exams and recruitment.1

It found that 66% of F2 doctors who completed foundation training in the summer of 2015 applied in round one to enter specialty training in August 2015. This compares with 78% of F2 doctors who completed their foundation training in the summer of 2012.

The GMC said that, although the number of F2 doctors had increased since 2012, the lower proportion of those entering specialty training meant that 582 fewer F2 doctors applied in 2015 than in 2012. The number of F2 doctors applying to enter training in round one decreased from 5761 in 2012 to 5179 in 2015, it said.

The GMC also found that 51% of F2 doctors who completed their foundation training in summer 2015 were in specialty training in March 2016. This compares with 66% of F2 doctors who completed foundation training in 2012 who were in specialty training in March 2013, the regulator said.

It also found some variation between the four UK nations. In England in 2016, 81% of specialty training posts were filled after the first round of national specialty recruitment, compared with 82% in 2015. In Scotland, 96% of all medical training posts for the 2016-17 academic year were filled at the close of recruitment.

The GMC said that, while Northern Ireland and England had shown a steady decline in the proportion of F2s in training a year after completing foundation training, in Wales and Scotland the proportion of 2013 F2s in further training after a year was higher than the 2012 cohorts. However, the figures fell in 2014 and 2015.

Doctors may choose to delay further training for many reasons, the GMC said, but, in the long term, “a decreasing number of F2 doctors entering further training could result in more unfilled training places . . . This would increase pressure on other staff and doctors in training, which could affect patient care and the quality of training provided in environments carrying vacancies.”

The GMC said that the dispute between the ministers and junior doctors in England about a new contract for junior doctors may have been a factor in reducing application rates in 2015 in England.

“However, F2 doctors would have decided to apply in round one in November/December 2014 for specialty or general practice programmes generally starting in August 2015,” it said. “This process would have been completed before the British Medical Association’s decision to ballot for strike action in September 2015.”

The GMC added that the pattern of decline was not unique to England, as all four UK countries had seen decreases in the proportion of F2s progressing directly into further training.

“It will take some time until we can determine whether this represents an increase in doctors taking time out of UK training or [whether] it will translate into a longer term increase in attrition,” the regulator said.


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