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a mortar board and stethoscope imge cbAugust 14 2017

Plans to expand undergraduate medical training capacity by 1,500 places will start with the 2018-19 academic year, the Department of Health has confirmed.

In its response to a consultation on proposals to increase undergraduate training, the Department firmed up the detail of how it will introduce the expansion. It had already announced, back in October 2016, that it will provide an additional 1,500 places.

“Our intention is that in the academic year 2018-19 the number of medical school places available at established providers will increase by approximately 500. The remaining 1,000 places will be allocated through a competitive process with the expectation for delivery in 2019-20,” said the Department.

“There will be some flexibility to consider phased starts in 2018-19 or 2020-21 where bids that are best able to meet the Government’s policy objectives provide strong evidence of the need to provide places to a different timescale.” Health Education England and the Higher Education Council for England will oversee the process.

RCGP Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard has welcomed the additional detail but warned about the timescale. “We urgently need thousands more doctors – particularly thousands more GPs - to ensure that our NHS has a future workforce able to keep up with escalating patient demand as our population continues to increase and as people live longer,” she said.

She welcomed the recognition of the need to support under-doctored areas, such as in some rural areas, and to encourage more medical students from disadvantaged backgrounds. “However, it takes a long time to train a doctor to consultant level – at least ten years in the case of a GP – and we need more family doctors now, so that we can continue to deliver high quality care to over one million patients a day.

“We need to see this expansion of medical school places being implemented in parallel with efforts to attract more of our existing medical students and foundation doctors into general practice, to retain our existing GP workforce, and to make it easier for trained GPs who have left the profession to return to practice.”

BMA medical students committee co-chair Harrison Carter pointed out that “medical graduates tend to continue to train and work in the region of their medical school so patients will benefit from a focus on recruiting students to universities in rural or coastal areas, but recruitment efforts need to be backed up by high-quality NHS training placements and incentives to study in these regions.”

He warned: “Any increase in places must be matched with sufficient funding, and an increase in the number of university-based teachers to ensure universities are able to maintain educational standards and provide a high-quality educational experience for students. The number of foundation training posts must also be increased to reflect the larger number of graduating medical students so no doctor faces unemployment after qualifying.

“Medical students also need clarity on whether they must work for the NHS for a minimum number of years following graduation.”

While welcoming the commitment to expand places, RCP president Professor Jane Dacre said: “More doctors and other healthcare professionals are urgently needed to meet the year-on-year rise in demand for healthcare. This announcement does not tackle today’s pressures – the rota gaps, the bottlenecks in patient access and the troubling situation in social care – all of which are causing significant impacts on the quality of patient care and staff morale.”

Links:
DH announcement
DH ‘Expansion of Undergraduate Medical Education Government Response to Consultation’                  
RCGP comment                
BMA comment  
RCP comment   

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