GP recruitment figures from HEE show 152 more trainees have been accepted into posts compared to the same time last year, a boost welcomed by the RCGP.
The proportion of available posts filled at this stage has risen by one percentage point from round one last year, which saw 69% of posts filled at this stage, but the total number of available places has risen 148 from 3,117 to 3,265.
Around 30% of places remain unfilled for the second round of GP recruitment, which historically attracts fewer applicants than the first.
HEE does not usually release recruitment figures until the whole year of recruitment is over, but said it decided to provide the data to help trainees plan their applications and see which specialties still have posts available.
GPonline reported last week that there appeared to have been a surge in GP trainee uptake, after a re-advertisement for the recruitment round on the GP National Recruitment Office (GPNRO) website showed the number of available places had drastically reduced. The official figures are slightly more modest than this estimate.
But the HEE figures show that general practice is the second-least filled of all specialties. Core psychiatry training was the only one with a lower fill-rate of 67%.
This is offset by the fact that general practice accounts for significantly more posts than all other specialties, accounting for close to half of overall places.
Core surgical training, clinical radiology and ophthalmology were among the specialties that managed to already attain 100% fill-rates.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker welcomed the figures, expressing hopes that the rise in GP trainee numbers could be the ‘start of a turning tide’ for recruitment.
Future of general practice
She added that she had written a letter to all foundation doctors encouraging them to join the GP profession.
‘Creating the number of GPs we need is a challenging task, so this increase in GP numbers is a fantastic step in the right direction,’ she said.
‘This is a vote of confidence in GPs and the future of general practice – and excellent news for our patients who will ultimately benefit.
‘We hope this will be the start of a turning tide. It is a testament to the sterling work of our faculties, practising GPs and university GP societies who are going all out to promote our fantastic profession and illustrate to future generations what an exciting, challenging and stimulating career being a GP can be.
‘We now need to ensure that general practice is fully supported. General practice is the cornerstone of the health service. We keep the NHS sustainable and our patients safe - but we desperately need more resources and more GPs so that we can continue to provide excellent patient care.’