Specialty training vacancies increase by 30% in a year

Authors: Tom Moberly 

Publication date:  19 Jul 2017

The number of unfilled vacancies in specialty training after the first round of recruitment increased by 30% this year, data from Health Education England show.

In 2017, 908 of the 7487 training posts available were left unfilled after the first round of recruitment to first year specialty and core training. This is a 31% increase from 2016, when 693 of the 7366 available training posts were left unfilled at the same stage of the recruitment process.

Of the 908 unfilled posts, over 90% were in four specialties: general practice; core psychiatry training; acute care common stem (ACCS) acute medicine and core medical training; and paediatrics. General practice accounted for more than half of the unfilled vacancies.

Although general practice training had the largest number of unfilled vacancies in 2017, recruitment to the specialty was more successful in 2017 than in 2016. The overall fill rate for general practice increased by 1.5% from 2016 to 2017.

In general practice, 518 vacancies were unfilled, representing 16% of the posts available. Both histopathology and core psychiatry training had a greater proportion of posts unfilled, with 28% and 35%, respectively.

Some specialties complete recruitment after the first round, while others continue to recruit. In 2016, after further rounds of recruitment and the provision of some additional posts, the number of unfilled vacancies was reduced by 37% (from 693 to 436). HEE has said that further rounds of recruitment are planned for later in the year to fill remaining vacancies at core trainee year 1 (CT1) and specialist trainee year 1 (ST1) level.

There are 16 specialties with vacancies at ST1 or CT1 level. Of these, nine specialties were unable to fill all their posts: ACCS acute medicine and core medical training; ACCS anaesthesia and core anaesthesia; ACCS emergency medicine; cardiothoracic surgery; core psychiatry training; core surgical training; general practice; histopathology; and paediatrics. Seven specialties filled all their posts: clinical radiology; community sexual and reproductive health; neurosurgery; obstetrics and gynaecology; ophthalmology; oral and maxillofacial surgery; and public health medicine.

These data showing that fewer doctors are entering specialty training follow the release of data earlier this year that found a drop in applications to earlier stages of medical training. In February, the UK Foundation Programme Office announced that fewer doctors were applying to join the foundation programme.[1] In the same month, it released data showing that fewer doctors were choosing to move straight from the foundation programme to specialty training.


  1. Rimmer A. Half of foundation trainees now choose not to progress straight to specialty training. 2017. [Link] .

Tom Moberly UK editor, BMJ


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