Health education bosses have recruited record numbers of GP trainees, surpassing their target of 3,250 for the first time, the health secretary has announced.
Speaking at the Best Practice conference, health secretary Matt Hancock said that nearly 3,500 GP trainees have been recruited, above the 3,250 target and 10% more than last year.
Last year, Health Education England recruited only 3,157 GP trainees after two rounds of recruitment.
But in his keynote speech in Birmingham today, Matt Hancock said: ‘We have a record number of GPs in training. This year we recruited 3,473 trainees, against a target of 3,250. So we beat our target and it is a 10% increase on last year.’
Mr Hancock added that NHS England are on track to increase the number of other staff working in general practice by 5,000 by 2020/21, with 3,000 already recruited since 2015.
He said: ‘Today there are 41,360 GPs working in England but too many GPs are retiring early or opting to work part-time, and this makes the challenge of increasing the number of GPs even greater.
‘We have set a goal of getting 5,000 more doctors into general practice, and we must reach it.’
He added that the profession needs a ‘culture shift’ so that GPs are valued more.
‘Being a general practitioner should have the same prestige as being a consultant or a surgeon, because GPs are the bedrock of the NHS,’ he said.
He also said that the NHS needs to explore new business models like mutuals – a model which sees its clients own part of the business – although he explained that he is not attached to any one model but is ‘attracted to any model that benefits primary care staff and patients’.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee executive team workforce lead, said the GP trainee numbers are ‘welcome’ but added that ‘new GPs take 10 years to train, and without urgent action and investment… more doctors will leave the profession’.
He added: ‘While the health secretary again promises an extra 5,000 GPs in the workforce, the Government continues to push the deadline for achieving this back as overall numbers dwindle…While the news on recruitment is very welcome, there is still more work to be done on retention.’
HEE national medical director Professor Wendy Reid said: ‘This is great news for the NHS and for patients who will benefit from our continued investment in GP training through a wide range of initiatives and programmes to keep the training numbers growing year on year.’