Key Points:

The College of General Practitioners has scrapped a user-pays training scheme because of a big increase in the number of state-funded placements.

Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced that from February the Government will lift the number of first-year places it pays for to 129, from 104 this year. He estimated this would cost an extra $1.5 million.

"The Government plans to further expand the number of funded GP training places in 2010 to 154, and we have budgeted funds to pay for this," Mr Ryall said.

The aim is to reduce the shortage of GPs.

But around 60 trainees this year paid their own way on the more limited seminars-only programme, a scheme withdrawn by the college, which considers it inferior to its state-funded course.

All that was provided for these self-funded trainees, who had to arrange their own employment in a GP clinic, was teaching seminars. On the state-funded programme, trainees have a position provided in an accredited teaching practice and receive mentoring and detailed clinical feedback.

The college's national director of education, Jane Dancer, said trainees completing the state-funded, first-year programme were much more likely to pass the Primex exam, the first of two major college assessments needed to become a specialist GP.

The seminars-only programme was introduced in the 1990s when the last National Government halved the state-funded places.

Fewer than 35 doctors applied for next year's seminars programme. They were channelled into the state-funded programme and only a handful were declined.