The training of new staff is crucial to the NHS, helping it replace those leaving, meet increasing demand and cover vacancies. In England, at any one time there are in the region of 200,000 students in training and education to become clinicians and junior doctors in postgraduate medical education.
The number of foundation doctors has increased substantially over the last year, with a 3,500 increase between June 2019 and 2020. There was also an increase of around 3,300 specialty registrars over the same period. The number of GP registrars has remained fairly stagnant – even though it remains a national priority to increase the number of qualified GPs.
Monitoring medical recruitment is essential to ensure that posts for different specialties are being filled. Core psychiatry has seen an increase in the rate of places filled between 2017 and 2020 (from 64.6% to 99.4%), as has paediatrics, with an increase of 8.75 percentage points over the same period. The number of GP posts has increased, with the proportion of posts being accepted has been hovering at 97% in the most recent recruitment round.
About the target: In 2016, the GP Forward View detailed the plan to increase GP training capacity and increased recruitment to 3,250 additional doctors in general practice a year until 2020. This is reflected in the target number of training posts they are recruiting to in the graph above.
The number of people taking on a career in nursing has been a cause for concern in recent years, with the data showing a 31.4% decrease (equivalent to nearly 18,000 applicants) between June 2016-17 and June 2018-19. This marginally increased by 4.6% in 2019-20, and increased further to 16.0% for the 2020-21 intake (equivalent to 6,500 applicants). Student bursaries for nursing were removed before the 2017-18 intake, but in December 2019, the government introduced new maintenance grants for nursing students to support living costs. This came into effect from September 2020.
About the target: In 2017, the then-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, announced funding to support 5,000 extra nurse training places by 2018/19.
The NHS Long Term Plan reiterated the bold ambitions for apprenticeships, suggesting that 7,500 new nursing associates would start in 2019 (a 50% increase on the ambition for 5,000 starting in 2018, though the delivery date for the target was later changed to March 2020). The data available shows that the numbers who have started were not enough to meet the 7,500 target by March 2020, with just 5,318 having started as of March this year.
About the target: Following the Health Education England target of recruiting 5,000 trainee nursing associates in 2018, there was a further ambition to recruit 7,500 additional nursing associates by March 2020.