Government outlines plans to boost doctor training

The government has confirmed it will create an extra 500 NHS medical school places in England next year – although the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned the plan will not address an immediate shortage of medics.

The move is part of a plan to use UK-trained doctors to reduce staffing pressures in the beleaguered NHS, but the BMA is concerned that it will be years before the new recruits are trained and on the wards.

In particular, it is worried that Brexit could lead to an exodus of EU-trained doctors, causing further shortages.

Under plans announced in the autumn, the NHS aims to recruit an extra 1,500 doctors a year in the NHS by 2020 in the biggest ever expansion of the medical workforce – a 25% increase in current numbers of medical students.

In its latest announcement, the Department of Health (DoH) added more detail to the plans, saying that from next year, medical schools will be able to offer an extra 500 places to future doctors.

The remaining 1,000 places will be allocated across the country based on an open bidding process.

Extra places will be targeted at under-represented social groups such as lower income students, as well as regions that struggle to attract trainee medics.

The DoH noted that coastal and rural locations tend to struggle to attract graduate doctors, and the government wants medical schools to address this imbalance during the bidding process.

Earlier this month the DoH also launched a mental health workforce plan, and it hopes the drive for more doctors will support the initiative to increase staff numbers in an area that has been long neglected.

But BMA medical students committee co-chair Harrison Carter said: “The students who will benefit from these new placements will take at least ten years to train and become senior doctors so we mustn’t forget this promise won’t tackle the immediate shortage of doctors in the NHS which could become more acute following Brexit.

“As such we require equal focus on retaining existing doctors in high-quality jobs which will provide more immediate relief to an overstretched medical workforce.”

Health minister Philip Dunne said: “Not only is this the biggest ever expansion to the number of doctor training places, but it’s also one of the most inclusive; ensuring everyone has the chance to study medicine regardless of their background, and ensuring the NHS is equipped for the future with doctors serving in the areas that need them the most.”

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