THE number of doctors applying to start GP training has fallen for the second year in a row, according to new figures from Health Education England.
Between November 11 and December 4, there was a drop of 6.2 per cent in UK GP applications to the 2015 programme, with the current total at 5,112. This is a slight improvement on 2014 when HEE reported a 9.7 per cent fall in applications to 6,031.
The figures follow reports in October last year highlighting an overall vacancy rate for GP training posts in England of 12.4 per cent with only 2,688 trainees recruited. In some parts of the country vacancies were as high as 30 per cent.
Despite the declining numbers, HEE has insisted it is still "well on course" to meet its government target of having 3,250 GPs in training by August 2016, a deadline which had already been pushed back from August 2015.
In January, NHS England announced a £10million package of measures to boost GP numbers, working in partnership with HEE.
HEE told Pulse magazine that the 2015 figure of 5,112 applicants is not yet final as the first round of recruitment ends on March 26.
They said: "We cannot confirm recruitment information as we are half way through the process and a full comparison to previous rounds is not available.
"Our mandate from the Government requires us to provide 3,250 GP training places by 2016. We are well on course to achieve that number and are working hard on a variety of initiatives to ensure general practice is seen as an exciting and interesting career choice for trainees."
The BMA has raised concerns about the figures.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC education and workforce subcommittee, told Pulse: "The BMA is concerned that a shortfall of GPs is adding to the pressure on GP services and impeding patient care. We are working with the NHS England and HEE to find solutions to the issues, but we do believe that politicians of all parties need to provide additional support to enable more GPs to join the NHS workforce."