Around 83% of GP training posts have been filled in England, official figures have revealed, the first time in three years that there has been an increase in GP trainees recruited at this stage.
Health Education England have said that 2,691 of its 3,250 places have been filled after two rounds of recruitment – an 83% fill rate.
The total number of places filled is a 7% increase on the 2,513 places filled at the same stage last year. It is the first time since 2013 that the figures at this stage have shown an increase on the previous year.
But HEE is still way off its target to train 3,250 GPs a year by August this year – a target which was itself moved back from 2015.
It had seemed there were nine in ten GP training places filled across the UK after two rounds of recruitment, after HEE revealed the number of vacancies for each region. However, its official figures have shown that these initial estimates were optimistic.
The latest figures do not show the number of places filled in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. However, there are still 101 vacancies being advertised in Scotland – 31% of the 325 positions in total. It is a similar situation in Wales, with 32% of the 136 positions still being advertised.
Some areas in England are also struggling, including the North East region where 40% of places remained unfilled.
They do remain an improvement on figures from earlier this year when the numbers of applications for GP training tumbled five percentage points on the year before, while only 70% of places across the UK were filled following round 1 of recruitment.
It follows a range of efforts to boost recruitment, perhaps most notably providing £20,000 bursaries for doctors to train as a GP in under-doctored areas like Blackpool and Lincolnshire.