Health education bosses have recruited the highest ever number of GP trainees, but still fell short of the long-standing target of 3,250 graduates a year.
Official figures released today reveal that 3,157 entered training for 2017/18 in England – an increase of 138 on last year’s totals.
However, they still fell short of the 3,250 a year target that was originally set for 2015 – and is a pillar of the Government’s strategy to recruit 5,000 extra GPs by 2020 – but has been missed every year.
It is the third year in a row that numbers have been increasing.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP committee told Pulse the new figures are ‘a glimmer of light’ that the recruitment figures are moving ‘in the right direction’.
But he said: ‘We can’t let up in terms of those initiatives and schemes to try and encourage doctors to chose general practice but primarily we need to have a long term funding commitment and address the workload pressures in general practice so that once GPs are trained they feel that they are able to use their skills in a productive and useful way.’
Pulse recently reported that GP leaders are in talks with HEE over bringing back UK nationals studying medicine in Bulgaria into GP training.
Meanwhile, HEE and the GMC are working together to persuade the 4,000 current international medical graduates who register to practise in the UK each year to consider applying for GP training places through the use of promotional material.
Chief executive of HEE Professor Ian Cumming said the record numbers were ‘a testament to all of the hard work that has gone into this priority area’.
He said: ‘It is great news for the NHS and also great news 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.
‘But despite what has been another record-breaking year we know that more still needs to be done.
‘We will continue to develop initiatives such as our general practice marketing campaign, now in its third year, to help raise awareness of general practice as a career of choice and its unique selling points as a specialty.’
This comes after official figures released last week revealed a drop in the number of GPs, with 1,000 fewer GPs in the workforce this year compared to last year.