How GP trainee numbers in England have soared over the past decade

With serious concerns over the falling full-time equivalent (FTE) GP workforce in England, record numbers of trainees have been identified as a beacon of hope. GPonline looks at how GP trainee recruitment has spiked over the past decade.

GP trainee numbers are rising (Photo: traffic_analyzer/Getty Images)
GP trainee numbers are rising (Photo: traffic_analyzer/Getty Images)

The number of doctors in general practice training has risen by a quarter in the last seven years, official statistics show.

Responding to a request for information on GP trainee growth, health minister Jo Churchill revealed that the number of doctors in GP speciality training had risen by 25% in under a decade, from 8,439 in 2012 to 10,525 in 2019. This figure reflects the total number of doctors in all three years of the GP training programme.

The sharpest rise in GP trainee numbers was recorded between 2018 and 2019, when the total increased by 703. On average, the number of trainees has increased by 259 each year since 2012.

Exceeding target

The rise in overall doctors in GP training reflects an expansion in the number of training posts available each year and increasing success in filling those posts.

The number of training places filled by the NHS rose from 2,626 in 2009 to 3,473 in 2018, marking a surge of almost one third (32.3%).

Last year's total was the highest number on record - 7% above the 3,250 trainee target that had been set.

The only previous year in which the NHS had exceeded its GP trainee recruitment target was in 2010, when the NHS took on 68 more candidates than expected.

More posts needed

Despite recruiting record numbers of GP trainees this year, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard recently called for the NHS to increase the number of GP training posts to 5,000 a year.

She said this would help to reverse the decline in the FTE GP workforce, which fell by almost 600 over the past year.

'Based on current workforce trends, the college estimates that we need to start training at least 5,000 GPs every year to meet the government’s overall target to expand the GP workforce by 5,000 FTE GPs over the next few years,' said Professor Stokes-Lampard.

A DHSC spokesperson said earlier this month that the government would confirm its plans for securing the workforce in its NHS People Plan, which is due to be published later this year.

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