The government has pledged funding to increase the number of student doctors by 25% from 2018 in a bid to make England “self-sufficient” in training doctors.
Currently around a quarter of the medical workforce is trained outside the UK but with uncertainties faced in post-Brexit and a global shortage of doctors, it could become harder to recruit so many from abroad in the future.
The solution therefore is to invest in training doctors in England to work in England and in particular within the NHS. Jeremy Hunt has said
We need to prepare the NHS for the future, which means doing something we have never done properly before – training enough doctors”.
The need for foreign doctors will however not be eradicated by the proposals but will hopefully work in partnership with them. It is not simply a case of replacing doctors from overseas with UK-trained ones.
The cost of training a doctor over a period of 5 years is around £220,000 and the rise in training places will cost £100 million between 2018 and 2020. Plans to recoup the additional expense include foreign students being charged more than they are now. There are also plans for students to have a requirement to work for the NHS for at least 4 years or face penalties including having to repay the cost of their training.
The increase in medical school places is welcomed particularly given the current strain on junior doctors but as a medical degree takes 5 years to complete, it will not be until 2024 that the impact of the extra places is felt.
There are also concerns that a 25% increase is not going to be sufficient enough to fill the demand and that problems may emerge trying to force doctors to remain in the UK since many go abroad to develop their training and experience different health systems.
Whilst the proposals are a step in the right direction, only time will tell what impact they will have in hospitals and in the NHS in the long term.
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