• HEE recruits 3,473 doctors this year, exceeding its target for the first time
  • The national education and training body has increased its recruitment levels by 10 per cent this year compared to 2017-18
  • Health secretary Matt Hancock reaffirms government’s commitment to recruiting 5,000 GPs by 2020, despite previous doubts from his predecessor

Health Education England has exceeded its target for GP training for the first time, the health secretary has announced.

Speaking at the National Association of Primary Care conference today, health secretary Matt Hancock said HEE had recruited 3,473 doctors into GP training this year, exceeding its target by 223.

This is a 10 per cent increase on last year when it recruited 3,157 doctors, and the first time the national education and training body has meet its target since it was introduced in 2015.

Besides the numbers of doctors recruited to specialty GP courses, which typically last three years, Mr Hancock also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to have 5,000 additional doctors working in general practice by 2020.

He said: “We have set a goal of getting 5,000 more doctors into general practice. And we must reach it.”

In June, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS was “struggling” to deliver on this promise, after figures from NHS Digital revealed there were 1,000 fewer GPs working in the NHS in 2018 compared to 2015.

In a statement, Mr Hancock said: “GPs are the bedrock of our health service so I’m delighted we’ve exceeded our target with a 10 per cent increase and a record number of GPs in training.

“It’s essential that we have the right numbers of GPs, so we’re increasing the numbers in training places and supporting GPs to remain in the NHS through flexible working and a retainer scheme. And as we put an extra £20bn into the NHS, we must change the balance of funding away from acute care and shift the focus to primary care.”