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Record numbers of doctors join NHS specialty training

5 July 2021

New data from Health Education England (HEE) shows record numbers of doctors joining NHS specialty training programmes with more applicants, more posts and the highest ever fill rate, which is positive news for patients and the NHS.

The 2021 fill rate for England is 99.18 per cent across all specialties showing year on year improvement for four years running. 7846 doctors, an increase of 282 doctors over 2020, have accepted posts despite the challenges of the pandemic in delivering the recruitment exercises. The data shows recruitment for posts in England starting in August 2021, across all medical specialities.

Applications this year have gone up by 35 per cent. Possible reasons for this include restrictions on travel overseas due to the pandemic, resulting in more UK trained applicants, and new health and care worker visas which support submissions from international applicants.

Despite more posts, the increase in applicants has made this year the most competitive on record meaning more doctors will not have got the training post they wanted. HEE is committed to supporting these doctors over the coming months, including encouraging applications for further recruitment rounds. Recruitment for posts starting from August this year has now been completed but the next round opens in July, offering further training posts starting in January 2022.

Doctors are encouraged to meet with their medical supervisors locally for advice and support about their immediate next steps, which may include locally funded Trust training posts, or Specialty and Associate Specialist doctor posts, as well as applying for further recruitment rounds.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said:“I am immensely proud of the dedication doctors and all healthcare staff have shown throughout the past year, and these figures show how their work has inspired the next generation of medical staff.

“From A&E doctors supporting the most urgent needs and paediatricians caring for kids up and down the country, to public health medics preventing illness before it occurs, these professionals will help the NHS continue to deliver patients the safe, skilled and specialist care they need.

“We’re now on the road to recovery from this pandemic and are committed to further expanding our NHS workforce to start the monumental task of recovering NHS services. We are on track to deliver 50,000 nurses by the end of this Parliament.”

Professor Wendy Reid, HEE Director of Education and Quality and Medical Director said: “Once again this year we have excellent fill rates across all medical specialties which is good news for patients, the NHS and the profession. We will be training more doctors in primary care, cancer and mental health all of which are NHS priorities, and we are progressing well towards the target of 4,000 GP trainees.

“The 2021 recruitment round saw a 35% increase in applicants compared to previous years which reflects the number of junior doctors keen to pursue an NHS career. It is excellent news that we have managed to fill our training posts almost to maximum capacity however the high numbers of applications do mean that it has been very competitive and not all applicants will have been successful.

“We will be working with partners in Trusts, the Royal Colleges and the BMA to support those doctors who were not successful this time so they can review the available options.”

Health Minister Helen Whately said: “It is hugely encouraging to see the number of doctors taking up specialist training posts reaching record levels across the UK.

“We have more doctors than ever before working in NHS trusts, and we expect to see the number rise further thanks to 1,500 more medical school places - backed by the opening of five new medical schools.”

Speciality recruitment and fill rates data 2021