General practice set for record trainee recruitment for fourth year running

GP trainee recruitment is on track for a fourth successive record-breaking year after posts filled in the first rounds for 2021 broke previous records, Health Education England (HEE) figures reveal.

GP trainees at record level (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)
GP trainees at record level (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

A total of 3,690 doctors accepted GP training positions after the first round of recruitment to 2021 GP training posts - meaning 98.85% of the 3,773 posts available this year have already been filled.

The total number of posts filled at this stage is up 7% compared with last year, and the fill rate at this stage of the recruitment process is also up from just under 97% after the first round in 2020.

NHS officials have welcomed record numbers of doctors joining the NHS, explaining that restrictions on travel overseas due to the pandemic may be behind an increase in UK-based applicants.

GP trainee numbers

A total of 3,793 GP training posts were filled in 2020 - 17% above the government-mandated figure of 3,250. Recruitment for posts starting from August this year has now been completed, with the next round opening in July for training posts starting in January 2022. Across all medical specialties, more than 99% of training posts have been filled.

HEE director of education and quality and medical director Professor Wendy Reid said: ‘Once again this year we have excellent fill rates across all medical specialties which is good news for patients, the NHS and the profession.

‘We will be training more doctors in primary care, cancer and mental health, all of which are NHS priorities, and we are progressing well towards the target of 4,000 GP trainees.

‘The 2021 recruitment round saw a 35% increase in applicants compared to previous years, which reflects the number of junior doctors keen to pursue an NHS career. It is excellent news that we have managed to fill our training posts almost to maximum capacity.

‘However the high numbers of applications do mean that it has been very competitive and not all applicants will have been successful. We will be working with partners in Trusts, the Royal Colleges and the BMA to support those doctors who were not successful this time so they can review the available options.’

GP workforce

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid, said: ‘I am immensely proud of the dedication doctors and all healthcare staff have shown throughout the past year, and these figures show how their work has inspired the next generation of medical staff.

‘From A&E doctors supporting the most urgent needs and paediatricians caring for kids up and down the country, to public health medics preventing illness before it occurs, these professionals will help the NHS continue to deliver patients the safe, skilled and specialist care they need.

‘We’re now on the road to recovery from this pandemic and are committed to further expanding our NHS workforce to start the monumental task of recovering NHS services.’

Officials confirmed last year that the number of GPs recruited in 2020 was the highest in NHS history after 3,793 doctors accepted posts. The Conservatives have promised to grow the GP workforce by 6,000 doctors by 2024/25 and to deliver an extra 50m GP appointments a year.

However, despite strong GP trainee recruitment in recent years the overall GP workforce remains in decline - with 10% fewer fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs now compared with five years ago.

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