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‘Much better’ GP trainee fill rates this year, says Jeremy Hunt

GP trainee fill rates in some of the areas hardest hit by recent recruitment problems are ‘much better’ this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Speaking at the Best Practice conference in Birmingham today, Mr Hunt said fill rates in the East of England have gone up from 62% to 78% compared to last year, while in the North East places filled have increased from 69% to 95%.

However Pulse understands these figures are incorrect, with the correct figure for the North East 79%, and for East of England 95% this year.

Mr Hunt said he was ‘pleased to say that Health Education England has done a very good job’ and that the ‘the number of GP filled placements is now at record levels, compared to previous years’.

He added: ‘Most encouraging, we’re starting to see some of the hardest to recruit areas of the country, we’re getting much much better fill rates.

‘In the East of England, last year the fill rate for GP trainees was 62%, that’s gone up to 78%, in the North East it’s gone up from 69% to 95%.’

But he conceded that despite the improvement, it would not be easy to deliver on his promise that there would be 5,000 more GPs by 2020/21 than there was at the time of last year’s general election.

He said: ‘It’s going to be very hard work to deliver that 5,000 GPs, but you are doing a great job of helping me deliver that by banging the drum for primary care and telling everyone who wants to go into medicine that this is the most exciting part of the NHS to be in.

‘This is where the biggest changes are going to happen in the next few years, this is where the biggest transformation will be.’

This comes as last year’s trainee figures saw an increase of 98 on a national level, but large shortfalls remained compared to HEE targets.

Commenting on Mr Hunt’s comments, GPC training lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said that ‘whilst acknowledging that GP recruitment has improved, the Government needs to realise that GP services are facing endemic shortages across the workforce with too many GPs leaving the profession and too few medical graduates joining’.

Dr Kasaraneni said this was ‘down to the incredible workload and funding pressures on GP practices that make the profession less attractive to work in than it once was’.

He 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.’

Health Education England introduced a range of measures to boost the popularity of GP training this year, including £20,000 bursaries to train in under-recruited areas, the ability to defer the start of training and overseas placements.

HEE has already missed its mandated target of delivering 3,250 GP trainees by 2016, though it remains to be seen how many GPs will start in February after the full figures for the third intake are released.

Note: This article was updated at 12.24 on 21 October to reflect the correct data on GP training places