A Guide to GP Recruitment 2021

GP recruitment in the UK is a competitive process. The UK GP Specialty Training scheme is one of the best in the world and because of this it can be difficult to get a job in your preferred location! The GP recruitment process ranks all applicants in one cohort and your ranking determines your region offer and often your likelihood of getting your job rotation preferences during GP training. We’ve written this guide in combination with our other GP Recruitment material to help you achieve the best marks possible and set you up for your future career in General Practice. To help you prepare for the Selection Centre, we’ve produced our GPST Selection Centre Online Course.

GP Recruitment Timeline

There will be at least 4,000 GP training posts available for the 2021 intake. Applications for the next round of General Practice ST1 training posts, starting in August 2021, will be invited from 5 November – 1 December 2020. See below for the full national recruitment timetable.

National Recruitment Timetable – August 2021 start date
Advert Appears 2 November 2020
Apply from 5 November 2020 (10:00am UK Time)
Application Closing Date 1 December 2020 (4:00pm UK Time)
Invitations to Multi-Specialty Recruitment Assessment (MSRA) Expected by No later than 5 January 2021
MSRA Window 28 January – 12 February 2021
MSRA Results Expected by 4 March 2021
First Offers from (n.b. By 5:00pm) 4 March 2021
Hold Deadline 28 April 2021 (1:00pm UK Time)
Upgrade Deadline 30 April 2021 (4:00pm UK Time)

For more information about the recruitment timeline visit- https://gprecruitment.hee.nhs.uk/Recruitment.

The GP Application Process

1: Oriel GP Application

Applications for GP training are made electronically via the Oriel recruitment portal website. This is the first stage of application process and you will only be asked to provide factual information about you and your employment history.

This is a fairly easy stage of the application, but it can take a bit of time to put in all the information.  You can make sure this stage runs smoothly by asking your referees for permission for references early on. They will be contacted by the recruitment team separately, so they don’t need to actually send you a reference, just give you permission to put their details on the application form.

There is usually only a two-week window to apply via Oriel, so make sure you don’t miss it and remember to actually press SUBMIT! The dates and deadlines relating to 2021/22 recruitment activity are available on the GPNRO website.

You will hear if you have been invited to attend the MSRA or interview via direct messaging through Oriel. Technically, you should also receive an email to your allocated email address which you put on the initial application, but sometimes these can go awry, so don’t rely on this working!

Make sure to check your Oriel account regularly for messages throughout recruitment process. Another tip is to use an email account which you definitely have access to at any time and add gpnro@hee.nhs.uk and noreply@oriel.nhs.uk to your email whitelist, to prevent them being filtered to junk.

If you meet the essential criteria outlined in the national GP ST1 Person Specification you will be longlisted for the next stage. Hooray!

For my information on applying for GP training click here.

2: Preferencing regions for during national GP training recruitment

When you apply, you will be asked to indicate your region preferences in a rank order. You should only rank areas you would actually be willing to work in, as there is a chance you could be placed there even if it was your lowest preference.  Programmes should be ranked in the order you wish them to be considered e.g. ‘1’ is your most wanted, ‘2’ your next most wanted, and so on. If you do not wish to be considered for a programme, you should move it to the ‘not wanted’ column. You will never be offered a post in the ‘not wanted’ column, even if it is the last post remaining when your rank is reached.

This ranking does take careful consideration, it is not a time to make a last-minute decision. GP specialty training is 3 years and the region can make a massive difference to your overall enjoyment and happiness. You can get some useful information about the different regions via their profile pages and access individual region websites – a quick google search should find these easily. Things to consider when choosing your regions are the types of programmes, the geography of the area, transport links to home and so on.

Your preferences are ‘locked’ once your application is submitted, but don’t panic if you have a sudden change of heart about a region, as there is a further window to edit your preferences; this window will span from the date of invitation to the MSRA until 48 hours before the first offers date; these dates are published on the GPNRO website.

The ‘Golden Hello’/ Targeted Enhancement Recruitment Scheme (TERS)

This incentive scheme offers a one-off payment of £20,000 (pre-tax) for accepting a GP training post in an area which has been hard to recruit to for the past three years.

Generally, these areas are more geographically rural and remote. But don’t let this put you off. They generally have had good feedback and often trainees end up staying in the area after training as they have enjoyed it so much.

You can select TERS areas via your Oriel application, by prioritising a ‘hard to recruit to’ region. The locations for posts commencing between August 2021 and February 2022 are shown in the table below. The number of posts is not always the same for each intake. More information can be found at GPNRO website and Recruitment Leads & Programme Details.

HEE Region / Office Training Programme Number of TERS Posts
East of England Great Yarmouth 19
Ipswich 24
Kings Lynn 19
Peterborough 18
London Barking & Dagenham 4
Brent 6
Havering 5
Hillingdon 6
Hounslow 6
Newham 6
Redbridge 6
Waltham Forest 6
Midlands – East Midlands Boston 25
Lincoln 20
Midlands  – West Midlands Hereford 22
North Staffordshire Moorlands 14
North Staffordshire Stoke on Trent 22
Shropshire (North Shrops and Oswestry) 7
Shropshire (South Shrops and Ludlow) 7
Worcester (Rural and Remote) 7
North East & Yorkshire – North East Durham and Tees Valley 44
North Cumbria 28
North East & Yorkshire – Yorkshire and Humber Hull 45
Northallerton 10
Scarborough 10
North West Blackpool 22
Morcombe Bay (Lancaster & South Cumbria) 25
South East – Kent, Surrey and Sussex Thanet (East Kent) 8
Swale (Medway) 4
South East – Wessex Dorchester (Rural) 16
Isle of Wight 10
South West Bristol 3
Cornwall 4
Exeter 3
Gloucester 4
North Devon 8
Plymouth 4
Torbay 3

Important information about TERS:

  • The £20,000 is pre-tax.
  • If it ends up that the training places are oversubscribed, standard recruitment and selection processes for training places will be applied.
  • If you defer entry the TERS payment will be removed, unless the deferment is for statutory reasons e.g. maternity leave.

3: The Multi-Specialty Recruitment Assessment (MSRA)

This is a computer-based test which assess both your clinical knowledge and your ability to problem solve. There are two papers, the professional dilemma paper (which is similar to the situational judgement test (SJT)) and the clinical problem-solving paper. Your score from the MSRA makes up 60% of your overall score.

GP recruitment

If you score in the top 10% of the cohort (usually a score of >575 points at the MSRA), you will be given a direct offer and do not need to complete the next stage in the process (Selection Centre Interview- Stage 3).

The test centres for the MSRA are right across the UK and even aboard. They are held by Pearson Vue. You can book your MSRA test centre once you have received a message on Oriel or via email from the GPNRO asking you to register with Pearson VUE. In the message they give you specific account details to register with. You can’t register until you have received these details.

More information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the MSRA process can be found in our MSRA: Complete Guide 2021.

Don’t forget your ID when you go to the test centre. You need one form of original, validgovernment issued ID that includes your name, recent recognisable photograph, and signature. Basically, take along your driver’s license or passport.

The Clinical Problem Solving paper assesses 12 different clinical topic areas, which are shown below. Generally, the questions will be around investigations, diagnosis, emergencies, prescribing or management. Pay particular attention to Paediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynaecology, as these often come up.

  • Cardiovascular
  • Dermatology/ENT/Eyes
  • Endocrinology/Metabolic
  • Gastroenterology/Nutrition
  • Infectious diseases/Haematology/Immunology/Allergies/Genetics
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Paediatrics
  • Pharmacology & Therapeutics
  • Psychiatry/Neurology
  • Renal/Urology
  • Reproductive
  • Respiratory

The Professional Dilemma paper is very similar to the SJT (Situational Judgement Test). The questions can be frustrating as sometimes all the answers seem like good options and other times they all sound terrible. The main things they are looking for are acting with integrity, coping under pressure, empathy, sensitivity, and recognising important concerns and responding appropriately. So, if you try to think about what you ‘should’ do as a good doctor you will do well. Have a read of the GMC good medical practice guide to give you a guide of they are looking for.

More information about the MSRA can be found at https://gprecruitment.hee.nhs.uk/Recruitment/Applicant-Guidance/MSRA and visit the Medibuddy advice on the application process.

4: Selection Centre Interview/Stage 3

COVID-19 Information

Please note that the following information outlines the usual interview stage of the selection process; however, applicants for 2021 will not undertake this element, and instead your ranking will be based entirely on your MSRA score.

This is the face to face ‘interview.’ Don’t be fooled though, this is not a standard interview where you are asked to explain why you have chosen to pursue a career in General Practice or present a portfolio. Each selection centre is equivocal. They are usually in hotels or sports stadiums and spread across the country. The rooms are non-clinical and you will not need to examine a patient.

Instead, there are 3x simulated consultation stations with actors and one written prioritisation question. The focus is on communication skills, not clinical knowledge, which can throw some candidates.

  • 1x essay style written prioritisation question (30 minutes)
  • 3x simulated consultation scenarios (10 minutes each). 1x patient, 1x relative/carer and 1x colleague (non-doctor) scenario.

The interview makes up 40% of your overall score. For more information about the interview see the Medibuddy advice on the Selection Centre Interview.

We’ve also prepared our GP selection centre interview question bank to help you prepare.

The marking scheme from the NRO (National Recruitment Office) assesses 4 competencies in the interview:

GP recruitment

You will be ranked in a national list based on your overall performance from both the MSRA and interview combined. This rank is the basis for your GP training offer region and also job rotations are allocated on this ranking basis…So it is a bit of a big deal.

5: Successful Offer for a GP Training Post

Congratulations, you have been offered a training post in the UK General practice scheme! You will receive the offer via Oriel. Remember, you have just 48 hours (exclusive of weekends) to respond to the offer. You have the option to accept, decline or hold.

Don’t forget to accept the offer if you do want it.  There are horror stories of applicants forgetting to actually accept their offer via Oriel and their place then being allocated to someone else. Don’t let this be you. Press accept and then open a bottle of bubbles to celebrate. Well done, you have succeeded in gaining a place on the UK GP training scheme!

Personal Experience of the Recruitment Process

I am a current GP ST1. The UK GP training scheme is a great, you meet wonderful people and feel like you are genuinely making a positive difference to patients.

The recruitment process is fairly straightforward and takes only a few months from start to finish.  Another positive is that, unlike other specialties, there isn’t the dreaded portfolio to prepare. However, this does mean that your marks and consequent ranking are based solely on your performance at the MSRA exam and the short OSCE style interview, which can seem a little dauting- what if I am having an off day?!

Do not despair, everyone I know who got their first choices just prepared for the recruitment process as if it were an upcoming exam. If you allocate revision time to the MSRA and interview you will be fine.

Making sure that you dedicate time to your exam preparations is even more important in 2021, as you won’t have an interview, and therefore your ranking will be based entirely on the score you achieve within the MSRA. To help you to prepare effectively for the MSRA, we’ll soon be launching a new artificial intelligence powered, adaptive, MSRA question bank, which will provide you with over three thousand practice questions. Our system automatically tailors the questions to your learning needs, by assessing your areas for development and providing you with questions that will further support your learning, and help you to achieve a higher MSRA score. 

Working as a junior doctor will have prepared you for some of the questions and scenarios in the MSRA and the selection centre interview. However, putting in some extra effort beforehand will ensure that you show off all the skills they are looking for and score highly.

My advice would be to try and enjoy the experience and think of it as showing the examiners how great a GP you will make. Don’t forget to allow yourself time to revise for the MSRA, think of it as an exam and study accordingly. For the interview- practice, practice, practice! Run through consultation skills with friends and practice as many written questions as possible. Check out our GP Stage 3 Interview question bank for all the resources you need in one place..

I would say that the GP recruitment process is a fair assessment of the skills which make a good GP, but the process is not 100% reflective of actual GP life and can be a bit unnatural, so don’t think you can just ‘wing it’ on the day. That being said, don’t panic, most people do well if they are prepared.

Relax, show off and enjoy the first step to becoming a GP. I am sure you will do well and enjoy your future career as a GP.

Good luck!

Useful links

Further reading

More tips on smashing your General Practice interview.
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