Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Best Practice conference in Birmingham: 'We have record numbers of GPs in training. This year we recruited 3,473 trainees against a target of 3,250. That is a 10% increase on last year.'
The announcement is a boost for the health secretary just days after the government conceded that it would not be able to deliver a promised increase of 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs by 2020/21.
Mr Hancock told the conference that GPs are 'doing an excellent job, despite the pressures you face', citing a recent CQC report that showed 96% of practices are rated good or outstanding.
Primary care team
He said: 'GPs are part of a team, and through them manage the health of our country. So, GPs working in, and leading, mixed teams of nurses, pharmacists, physios, and other healthcare staff, is the way forward.
'We are on track to increase the number of other staff working in general practice by 5,000 by 2020/21 – and have already recruited 3,000 more since 2015.
'We are helping other primary care workers, like dentists and pharmacists, to expand their services so we can make best use of their skills and lighten the load on GPs.
'This vision of an expanded and revitalised workforce, less pressured, more supported, rising to the challenge of the age - this is what I foresee.'
The health secretary reiterated plans to roll out state-backed GP indemnity from April 2019 - a measure intended to tackle cost pressures driving existing GPs out of the profession and deterring new entrants.
Mr Hancock said: 'I’m committed to delivering a state-backed GP indemnity scheme from next year because I want to remove the barriers to doctors entering or staying in general practice. We also need to keep exploring new business models like mutuals. I’m not wedded to any one model, but I am attracted to any model that benefits primary care staff and patients.
'I’ve set out three priorities for the NHS: prevention not cure, better technology and supporting the workforce.
'Primary care is central to all three. The future of the NHS rests on getting primary care right, and on shifting our focus so that we keep people out of secondary care.
'Obesity. Diabetes. Mental illness. Dementia - these are the pressures of the future. And the only way to address them is by public health and personal health, pre-primary and primary care.
'While I’m a firm believer in the power of technology to help people fulfil their potential. I also firmly believe that technology will never replace the need for human care, for the skilled, empathetic people we find in our health and care professions. And I believe the technology has to work for you: the professionals.'