The Department of Health has announced plans to extensively expand its medical training placements by an extra 1,500 doctors per year by 2020. The plan is being hailed as the “biggest ever” in the health service’s 69 years.
The current number of student doctors is said to increase by 25% under the new proposal with 7,500 new doctors in training annually.
The Department of Health also stated that there would be an additional 10,000 training positions available for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
The expansion plans aim to try and help with the shortages of medical staff across the country caused in part by recent uncertainty such as Brexit and the IR35 reform. The Department of Health hopes that these proposals will open doors for more young medical professionals who may have been shut out in the past due to a lack of training places. By investing in the next generation of doctors and nurses, the NHS hopes to retain more staff in future years.
Currently there are around 23,000 nursing training positions available each year and around 45,000 apply. Thousands of these applicants have the grades and qualifications required but are turned away purely down to a lack of placements.
“For too long, a cap on training places has meant thousands of talented students are rejected from university courses each year despite meeting requirements for medicine or nursing.
“These students will now be able to fulfil their potential as our future NHS nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.” – Health Minister, Philip Dunne.
The Department of Health also envisions that the added placements will help fill positions that are usually difficult to recruit for such as GPs and psychiatry specialists. They also aim to alleviate shortages in rural and coastal areas and attract candidates from under-represented demographics such as minority groups and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Whilst the proposals have been seen as a step in the right direction, many are still concerned about the immediate issues in the NHS.
The British Medical Associate (BMA) student committee co-chairman, Harrison Carter stated: “The students who will benefit from these new placements will take at least 10 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.”
Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies added: “The health and care system desperately needs proper workforce planning. It’s unclear where extra nursing students will come from, when the removal of student funding is putting many people off entering the profession.
“When it comes to the future supply of nurses, the Government is turning off the tap – nursing degree applications have fallen sharply and the pay cap is forcing many nurses out of the job they love.
“It’s time for ministers to face facts: they will struggle to build a strong and resilient workforce unless they lift the cap on pay and reinstate student funding.”
The proposals are set to start in England next year.