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In total, 2,769 GP trainees have been recruited, 98 more than in 2014, but well below the government’s mandated target to recruit 3,250 GP trainees annually by August 2016.
Official statistics show that nearly 40 per cent of places are unfilled in the North East, with a seven per cent decline in the actual numbers of trainees accepted. In the East Midlands, 31 per cent 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. Nevertheless, Alistair Burt, health minister for primary care, maintained the increase was ‘really encouraging’.
The figures have arisen after Health Education England and NHS England have implemented a series of measures aimed at alleviating the GP recruitment crisis. One such attempt included an advertising campaign that features skydiving patients.
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.
However, Health Education England’s chief executive Professor Ian Cumming told MPs in November 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, a significant improvement on the previous year where just 47 trainees were enrolled.
Burt praised the 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 the British Medical Association’s (BMA) 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.”