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Student doctor numbers to rise by 25% – BBC News

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The number of medical school places will increase by 25% in 2018 under plans to make England “self-sufficient” in training doctors.

The announcement – being made by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – will see medical school places rise to 7,500.

He believes increasing the number of home-grown doctors will be essential given the ageing population.

There is also concern it will become more difficult to recruit doctors trained abroad in the future.

About a quarter of the medical workforce is trained outside the UK, but the impact of Brexit and a global shortage of doctors could make it harder to recruit so many in the future.

The increase also comes after the health secretary has spent a year at loggerheads with junior doctors over the pressures being placed on them to fill rota gaps.

Medical degrees take five years to complete, so it will be 2024 before the impact of these extra places is felt.

But Mr Hunt will tell the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday: “We need to prepare the NHS for the future, which means doing something we have never done properly before – training enough doctors.

“Currently a quarter of our doctors come from overseas. They do a fantastic job and we have been clear that we want EU nationals who are already here to stay post-Brexit.

“But is it right to import doctors from poorer countries that need them while turning away bright home graduates desperate to study medicine?”

Mr Hunt will say the steps will mean that by the end of the next Parliament the NHS in England will be “self-sufficient” when it comes to training doctors.


Analysis: Will this work?

There is widespread agreement that the NHS is facing a crisis when it comes to doctor shortages. It is one of the underlying reasons why the dispute between the government and junior doctors has been so bitter.

So news that the number of training places is to increase by 25% is certainly being welcomed by many. But whether it is enough is another matter.

The health service employs more than 150,000 doctors – a quarter more than it did a decade ago. But even that has not been sufficient – vacancy rates are said to be running at close to 10%.

This is despite huge numbers being recruited from abroad. In fact, the numbers registering to work in the NHS from outside the UK has been outstripping those graduating from medical school in recent years.

The future, of course, is fraught with difficulties. The impact of Brexit on EU doctors is uncertain, there are large numbers due to retire – a figure of 13,500 in the next five years has been suggested – and then there is the not insignificant numbers who leave the NHS for other countries or opportunities .

More doctors in training doesn’t necessarily translate to more doctors in the NHS.

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The expansion in training places from 6,000 to 7,500 will cost 100m by the end of the Parliament, but in the long-term the government hopes to recoup money by charging foreign students more than it does now.

Medical students will also be expected to work for the NHS for at least four years – or face penalties that could include them having to repay the cost of their training, which currently stands at 220,000 over the five-year degree.

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British Medical Association leader Dr Mark Porter said the announcement “falls far short of what is needed”.

“The government’s poor workforce planning has meant that the health service is currently facing huge and predictable staff shortages,” he said.

“We desperately need more doctors, particularly with the government plans for further seven-day services, but it will take a decade for extra places at medical school to produce more doctors.

“This initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff.”

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “For decades, the NHS has failed to train enough of its own staff, so increasing the number of UK-trained medical staff is long overdue.

“However, if this new announcement involves simply replacing overseas doctors with UK-trained ones, that won’t increase the total number working in the NHS, and certainly won’t solve the agency staff crisis that is affecting the NHS right now.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37546360

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