Currently one in four medical workers are trained outside the UK. Photo credit: Fotolia
Jeremy Hunt is to increase the number of medical school places by 25 per cent under plans to make NHS England “self-sufficient” in training doctors.
The government’s plan will see an expansion in training places from 6,000 to 7,500 a year.
Ministers believe increasing the number of home-grown doctors will be essential given the ageing population.
Currently, as many as one in four medical workers are trained outside the UK, but there is concern the impact of Brexit and a global shortage of doctors could make it harder to recruit so many in the future.
Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC: “We want to see the NHS able to recruit doctors from this country. We want to see more British doctors in the NHS.”
The increase also comes after the government has spent a year at loggerheads with junior doctors over the pressures being placed on them to fill rota gaps.
British Medical Association leader Dr Mark Porter welcomed the announcement, but said it fell short of what was needed.
“Jeremy Hunt has been health secretary for four years, and while it is welcome that he has finally admitted the government has failed to train enough doctors to meet rising demand, this 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. 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.
“International doctors bring great skill and expertise to the NHS. Without them, our health service would not be able to cope.
“Over the past year, junior doctors across the country have raised concerns about the reality of working in an overstretched NHS and the impact that has on their morale and patient care. We know there are chronic staff shortages and rota gaps across the NHS, with major recruitment problems in areas such as emergency medicine and general practice.
“The government must tackle the root causes of this workforce crisis and the reasons why so many UK-trained doctors say they will choose to leave the NHS rather than forcing doctors to stay in a profession in which they can see no future. Demotivated, burnt-out doctors in this situation will not be good for patients.”