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A similar situation occurred previously when five GP training places on the 2014 GP training schemes were unfilled for the first time ever, but another recruitment round was launched which saw all five places eventually filled successfully.
It is not yet clear if the ICGP intends to launch another recruitment round but MI understands from GP sources that no further attempts will be made to recruit applicants as the process has gone as far as it can.
Despite agreement finally being reached between the College and HSE on an additional 14 GP training places for 2017, bringing the total number to 186, only 176 trainees are to date confirmed to start training in July.
The unfilled places are on schemes in the South East (3), Kerry (1), Galway (3), North East (1) and Limerick (2).
An ICGP spokesperson was unable to confirm exact figures on the application process at the time of publication.
But it is understood that more than 300 applications for GP trainee places were received this year. Around 60 were deemed inappropriate in the first instance, while several applicants who were offered training places turned down the offer.
MI understands that about eight or nine of confirmed GP trainee places relate to candidates accepted via the new process of recognition of prior learning, with each of these candidates to undergo three instead of four years’ training.
“The ICGP believes this manpower crisis needs to be addressed not only in terms of recruitment, but also in terms of retention of existing trained doctors. In the eight years of expansion in training places, the country experienced an unprecedented economic crash, which has had effects on the future prospects of GPs who work in Ireland,” a College spokesperson said.
Kerry GP Dr Eamonn Shanahan said that general practice is not as attractive a career as it once was. He said that until a new contract was agreed this would continue.
Commenting on Government plans to increase the number of GP trainees further in future years, Dr Shanahan said places would continue to remain unfilled unless dramatic change occurred.
“We currently run about 180 trainees and unless there are substantial changes – in terms of a new contract – I cannot see the numbers going much above that.”
A HSE spokesperson recently confirmed that intake on 186 places (14 extra) would commence in July.
The Executive initially promised an extra 15 GP training places but following negotiations 14 were secured.