The number of GP trainees has increased significantly in the UK for the 2016/17 period, compared to last year, but targets are still being missed according to official health service figures.
Health Education England (HEE) has missed its mandated target for 3,250 GP trainees for 2016/17 by 314 (10%), having recruited 2,936.
This is 200 more than the previous year and represents a 90% fill rate.
It has been frequently reported in recent weeks that general practice faces a major crisis, with graduates reluctant to enter into the vital profession.
And numerous reports from the front line have indicated that the current situation in general practice is one of surgeries bursting at the seams with work and patients.
The NHS has thus particularly targeted recruitment in this area, and it seems that this initiative is beginning to bear fruit.
Although uptake has improved in regions typically considered testing for recruiters, there is still a gulf between these undesirable regions and oversubscribed programmes in the South of England.
The North East (79%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (78%) achieved respectable figures, but it is clear that there is still much more to do.
Meanwhile, Scotland is clearly struggling to recruit, with 32% of the 425 places in the nation currently left unfilled.
In Northern Ireland 84 of 85 places (99%) were filled, and Wales – which this week launched a marketing programme and £20,000 bursaries to promote training – has filled 130 of 136 (96%).
HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming was positive about the figures, suggesting that it was indicative of the fact that general practice is one again becoming a more attractive proposition.
“Although it has been a difficult year for doctors in training, our overall fill rates across all medical specialties have remained fairly constant and the significant rise in the number of GP trainees is particularly welcome against this background”.
But Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC education, training, and workforce subcommittee, was weary about the level of unfilled positions in some of the more disadvantaged areas of the UK.
“The current vacancy figures still leave general practice in England hundreds of GPs short of the target set by the health secretary, especially for GP trainees. We need the government to urgently implement its recent promises in the GP Forward View so that we can recruit and retain enough GPs to deliver effective care to patients”.
But Dr Miles Mack, RCGP Scotland chair, claims that the recent announcement by the First Minister to move 11% of NHS spending to general practice will have a seriously positive impact.
“Trainees and medical students will now be able to see a valued profession with a vibrant future, promoted by Scottish Government and celebrated for its vital role within each and every Scottish community”.
There are over 280,000 registered doctors in the UK, according to List of Registered Medical Practitioners statistics.