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Written Statement - Update on This is Wales: Train Work Live Campaign

Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
On 20 October 2016, the First Minister launched a national and international marketing campaign targeting doctors, including GPs, to support our Programme for Government commitment to continue ‘to invest in our healthcare staff by taking action to attract and train more GPs, nurses and other health professionals across Wales’. The campaign was initiated using a collaborative NHS Wales presence at the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Careers Fair in London on 20-21 October.

The latest workforce statistics published on 29 March show the number of GPs in Wales (excluding registrars, retainers and locums) has increased by 127 in the period 2006 to 2016 representing the good progress we’ve made on staffing. We recognise there is always more work to be done. This is why the first phase of our campaign is marketing Wales as an attractive place for GPs and their families, to train, work and live by highlighting the benefits and opportunities offered through a medical career in Wales.  

A major element of the campaign was targeting doctors who are about to choose and undertake their specialty training in 2017. As part of the Wales offer that under-pinned the campaign, all trainees will receive funding towards their final exam fees. Trainees who undertake their training in those areas of Wales that have traditionally found it difficult to recruit will receive a further financial incentive.

The campaign and associated incentives has had some early success particularly regarding those choosing Wales to start their training. During the recruitment window for round 1 of GP speciality training, a 19% increase in application rate was achieved compared with the same stage in 2016. The window has now closed and I can confirm that the fill rate for GP training places at the end of round 1 is 84%. This compares to a fill rate of 68% at this stage in 2016.

The Round 1 re-advert for 2017 is now open and it is already clear that with further campaign activity leading up to the period when the process concludes in May, we will achieve an even higher fill rate.

Round 2, which aims to recruit GP trainees to take up post in February 2018 will open in August 2017

Across the UK, doctors who achieve a place on a GP training programme are entitled to defer starting their training for a period of up to12 months, and a total of 21 doctors recruited in the 2016 recruitment rounds have either started their training in February or will start in August 2017. This is in addition to those who will start their training as part of the 2017 recruitment window.

Of those areas of Wales that were a part of the financial incentive scheme, round 1 recruitment has already resulted in 100% fill rates in the Pembrokeshire, North Wales East and North Wales West GP training schemes. There are also grounds to be optimistic that the Ceredigion and North Wales Central schemes will increase their fill rates after the conclusion of round 1 re-advert.

The campaign has delivered highly targeted digital marketing, advertising in specialist press, email marketing and a social media campaign, the latter reaching over 3.7m people. This has been supported by inspiring case studies telling the story of professionals who have moved to Wales to pursue a medical career. The digital advertising has been particularly successful in reaching India and Canada while a rebranded medical careers website has received over 56,000 views, an increase of over 800% on the preceding 6 months.

A Single Point of Contact launched alongside the campaign is building on the single GP employer function of NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership through providing first level support to those who respond to the campaign or express an interest in returning to work in NHS Wales. The Single Point of Contact also provides recruitment support to independent GP practices.  As at 24 March it had dealt with a total of 378 enquiries, 173 of which were GP related.  

In the five months the campaign has been running, we have already achieved a number of positive outcomes from the enquiries made to the Single Point of Contact, including applications made to GP training and the GP induction and refresher schemes.

I have been clear that this is to be a long-term sustained marketing campaign over the length of this Assembly term, but the significant impact we have made in the first five months bodes well as we deliver on our programme for government commitment.

Phase two of the campaign will target nurses in primary care, secondary care and the care home sector and will launch in May.  Future phases of the campaign will target pharmacists and allied health professionals.

I will provide members with a further update in May when we will have the complete picture for the 2017 GP training places.