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GP trainee numbers on the rise, but targets still missed

The number of GP trainees are up across the UK for 2016/17 compared to last year, but targets are still being missed.

Health Education England (HEE) has missed its mandated target for 3,250 GP trainees for 2016/17 by 314 (10%), having recruited 2,936. This is 200 more than the previous year and represents a 90% fill rate.

Although uptake has improved in hard-to-recruit regions such as the North East (79%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (78%), this is still contrasted with oversubscribed programmes in the South of England.

The biggest gaps are in Scotland, where 32% (138) of the 425 places in are left unfilled.

This still means that 37 more trainees will start in Scotland compared to 2015 as the programme was expanded to meet future demand for workforce.

In Northern Ireland 84 of 85 places (99%) were filled, and Wales – which this week launched a marketing programme and £20,000 bursaries to promote training – has filled 130 of 136 (96%).

HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming said: ‘Although it has been a difficult year for doctors in training, our overall fill rates across all medical specialties have remained fairly constant and the significant rise in the number of GP trainees is particularly welcome against this background.’

But Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC education, training, and workforce subcommittee, said: ‘The current vacancy figures still leave general practice in England hundreds of GPs short of the target set by the health secretary, especially for GP trainees.

‘We need the government to urgently implement its recent promises in the GP Forward View so that we can recruit and retain enough GPs to deliver effective care to patients.’

Meanwhile, Dr Miles Mack, RCGP Scotland chair, said the recent announcement by the First Minister to move 11% of NHS spending to general practice should help to turn the situation around.

‘Trainees and medical students will now be able to see a valued profession with a vibrant future, promoted by Scottish Government and celebrated for its vital role within each and every Scottish community.’

Recruitment figures in full

Region Places Total Starters Fill Rate
England 3250 2936 90%
HEE – East Midlands 280 266 95%
HEE – East of England 330 313 95%
HEE – Kent, Surrey and Sussex 247 257 104%
HEE – North East 192 151 79%
HEE – North West 483 390 81%
HEE – South West 264 239 91%
HEE – Thames Valley 130 130 100%
HEE – Wessex 149 146 98%
HEE – West Midlands 359 301 84%
HEE – Yorkshire and the Humber 351 275 78%
HEE – London 465 468 101%
Northern Ireland 85 84 99%
Scotland 425 287 68%
Wales 136 130 96%

 Source: Health Education England