The number of trainees opting to enter general practice has increased by almost 5% on last year’s figures, Health Education England has said.
Speaking at the Commons Public Accounts Committee meeting this morning, HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming said there had been a 4.7% increase in the number of GP trainees recruited on the same stage last year.
This represents the most positive news around GP training over the past few years, which had seen declining numbers of trainees entering general practice until an upturn last year.
It also follows a series of measures put in place by HEE and NHS England.
HEE missed its target of training 3,250 new GPs a year by 2016, managing to recruit 3,019 last year, but Professor Cumming said he was confident they will meet this target this year.
Professor Cumming also said that HEE were encouraging other health care workers to do a part time medical degree in an attempt to increase the number of doctors.
NHS England and HEE have focused on increasing the number of trainees entering general practice, instigating a number of measures over the past few years following years of declining
This including the ill-fated recruitment campaign video, which saw a GP sign off a patient’s form enabling them to go skydiving.
However, there have been more successful initiatives, such as the proliferation of ‘golden handshakes’, which give GPs £20,000 incentives to work in areas that have struggled to recruit. It has been expanded to offer 144 places from April, an increase of 20% on last year.
Professor Cumming told MPs: ‘We have been successful in increasing the number of people entering general practice. In 2016, we had 3,019 , which is the highest ever number and is about 10% up. Our target is 3,250, which we’re aiming to hit this year.
‘Round 1 applications have just closed, and that is 4.7% up on the same time last year. So we’re seeing continued progression in terms of the number of people wanting to train as GPs. Which I think is in part in recognition of some of the work going on elsewhere in terms of seeing additional funding coming through.’
At the same meeting, he said that HEE were looking to allow other health care professionals to take on part-time medical degrees.
’There’s a huge number of initiatives for health care professionals to take on enhanced skills. Part of what we are trying to achieve is, to use an American term, to allow everyone to operate at the top of their licence. That means allowing GPs to spend most of their time doing things only GPs can do, same for pharmacists, nurses.
’But something we are very keen to see from the expansion of medical school places is looking at opportunities for people to consider part-time medical degrees to allow people who may be working as a pharmacist or a nurse who wish to become a doctor to study medicine on a part-time basis.’