Around 11% of the available GP training places in England will be left unfilled this year, but training bosses and ministers hailed a ‘big jump’ in the number of GPs accepted to training compared to last year.
Nearly 40% of places remain unfilled in the North East, with a 7% drop in the actual numbers of trainees accepted, and in the East Midlands 31% of places remain unfilled though the region has recruited four more GPs than last year.
The Government has pledged to increase GP numbers by 5,000 by 2020, and the latest figures cast doubt as to whether this is achievable.
However, the health minister for primary care said it was ‘really encouraging’ to see more doctors joining general practice.
The new figures are released after Health Education England and NHS England have implemented a series of measures aimed at alleviating the GP recruitment crisis, including an advertising campaign that featured skydiving patients.
But such measures have been unable to improve uptake in the areas that are facing the worst recruitment problems.
Alongside the problems in the North East and the East Midlands, the West Midlands recruited 281 trainees – a drop of 53 on last year.
However, most regions in the South of England filled all their training places, while Thames Valley, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, and the South West actually overfilled their allocations.
This highlights the problem with GP trainee recruitment drive raised by Health Education England’s chief executive Professor Ian Cumming to MPs last month that London and the South were filling rapidly to the detriment of the Midlands and North.
This year’s third recruitment round yielded 180 additional recruits from 676 applications, which is an improvement on last year, when HEE recruited just 47 trainees.
Health minister for general practice Alastair Burt praised HEEs success saying: ‘It is really encouraging to see more doctors joining general practice… A big well done to everyone involved in this recruitment process,’.
However, he added that more needed to be done to ‘bring in far more GPs’ to improve care and cut GPs’ workload.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s education, training, and workforce subcommittee, said: ’The increase in the number of GP trainee places being filled compared to last year is a step in the right direction.
’The halt in declining GP recruitment this year as a result of BMA’s intervention in the 10 point plan is only the first step. There is a very long way to go before we fully address the problems facing the GP workforce [and] worrying shortages still remain in many parts of the country.’