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Independents' Day

‘Record-breaking’ GP trainee recruitment sees 15% rise

GP trainee numbers in England have risen by 15% to reach ‘record-breaking’ numbers, the Government has announced.

This is the third year in a row that GP trainee numbers have risen, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

However, GP leaders warned that recruitment success would be 'in vain' without improved retention of the existing workforce.

Health Education England (HEE) today reported that 3,441 GP trainees have been accepted onto GP specialty training in 2020 so far, following the initial rounds of recruitment - an increase of 15% compared with 2,891 at the same stage last year.

In 2018, 2,931 GP trainees were accepted after the first stage of recruitment.

This is the highest number ‘the NHS has ever seen at this point’ and it is ‘well on course’ to beat the Government’s target for recruiting 3,500 GP trainees this year, HEE added.

Recruitment into general practice training is still ongoing for this year - with the next round opening at the end of July - and the final number of trainees will be known in the autumn, it said.

Meanwhile, HEE said it is working with employers to support successful applicants who ‘need to defer their start date’ due to coronavirus, as well as commissioning an independent review of ‘all recruitment processes affected by the pandemic’.

HEE deputy medical director for primary and integrated care Professor Simon Gregory said: ‘We are delighted that trainees are continuing to apply for GP specialty training in such high numbers. 

‘It shows that our campaign to highlight general practice as a rewarding, sustainable, flexible career continues to appeal to such amazing applicants.

He added: ‘It’s great that so many doctors are choosing a career in general practice. I would like to thank everyone who is working hard to promote GP specialty training.’

Health secretary Matt Hancock said that the new GP trainees show there is ‘growing interest in this fantastic career’ and will create ‘a pipeline of talent for the future’.

He said: ‘This is fantastic news for the NHS: for the third year running GP trainee recruitment is breaking records.

‘These new trainees will ensure a pipeline of talent for the future and help us deliver an extra 50 million appointments a year for patients as well as 6,000 more doctors in general practice.’

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee executive team workforce lead, said the increasing numbers of GP trainees are ‘encouraging’ but that it is ‘crucial we value and retain the existing workforce in order to ensure that GP numbers do truly increase in the long term’.

He said: ‘It is vitally important that we increase the support for the GPs that will be supervising and training these future GPs and those that come in the future.

‘GP trainers face challenges balancing their clinical workloads, as well as high levels of bureaucracy, in addition to their responsibilities in education and training for GP specialty trainees.’

He added: ‘These factors of exceptionally high and demanding workloads are the issues that can influence decisions to leave the profession.’

And chair of the RCGP Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘Now is certainly not the time to take our eye off the ball when it comes to GP recruitment. 

‘Many aspiring doctors will have watched with admiration as GPs and colleagues across the NHS went above and beyond throughout the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic - it’s vital to engage with those students to highlight general practice as a viable career option, and it looks like such initiatives have been successful.’

However, he reiterated that despite being ‘an important step in addressing the general practice workforce crisis’, recruitment efforts will be ‘in vain’ without retention.

The DHSC said that HEE is working with NHS England to increase the general practice workforce in England, including measures to ‘boost recruitment, address the reasons why doctors leave the profession, and encourage them to return to practice’.

It comes as the latest official figures have shown that the number of fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs dropped by 2.5% from March 2019 to March 2020.

And a major Pulse analysis earlier this year found that despite the positive upward trend in trainee numbers, more must be done for the Government to successfully meet its targets.

Last year, the Government pledged to create 50 million more GP appointments per year by bringing 6,000 new doctors to general practice by 2024/25 - including 3,000 extra fully-qualified GPs and 3,000 trainees.

It also promised to recruit 6,000 more additional staff in general practice such as pharmacists and social prescribers to help deliver the extra appointments, on top of the 22,000 announced as part of the GP contract.

After all rounds of recruitment had concluded, 3,538 GP trainees were accepted into placements in 2019, compared with 3,473 the previous year - the first time the recruitment target was surpassed.

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Readers' comments (18)

  • End of the line?

    Partnerships not touched with a barge pole
    Salaried burnout

    Practices running none face to face triage only with bare skeleton staff.
    Locums unemployed during pandemic.. as no funding

    Health secretary Matt Hancock said that the new GP trainees show there is ‘growing interest in this fantastic career’ and will create ‘a pipeline of talent for the future’.

    You would have to be utterly stupid to enter General practice in its current state..
    With utter lack of support from the Government..

    Primary Care network workload mountain has not even hit yet

    Hospital debts written off.. General practices facing bankruptcies as having to self find Covid care..
    Still no safe PPE provision
    General practice has been thrown under the bus..

    New GPs have seen unemployment..
    like never before..

    Retired GPs called to help voluntarily rather than pay a fare wage to well protected available Doctors

    Matt like Jeremy Hunt
    will at some time shuffle to a different position
    and move on from this collosal mess..

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Why on earth would anyone want to leap into the cesspit that is British General Practice? It shows the government strategy of beatings, belittlings, and penury has worked, thanks to their willing running-dogs in the BMA.

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  • Must be really really crap in hospital.

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  • I presume it is d9octors who know you can go part time in general practice much easier than hospital as general practice so desperate for anyone

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  • I can only assume they are on step 2 of a "qualify, train as a GP, emigrate" career plan

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  • I think working in hospital medicine has been awful with all focus on the virus. All the other specialities apart from respiratory have ground to halt with no sign of rescusitation on the horizon. Consultations occur on the phone with no opportunity for training in the specialiality. There is no cold surgery etc. It won't be long before the severe shortage of hospital doctors in unfashionable specialities and out in the country becomes seen as the next crisis as the NHS tries to hold itself together.

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  • GPs are gatekeeper and imagine if there would be a single day life without GPs, what would happen to the NHS! Then every body would realise how GPs are important.

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  • they tell me its the quickest way to get a valid qualification to emigrate abroad - they are not stupid. question is how many are staying in the uk after mrcgp.

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  • Record breaking GP trainee burnout sees 30% dropout- The math doesn't add up.

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