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Jeremy Hunt reveals plans to train up to 1,500 more doctors a year

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to train up to 1,500 more doctors a year in a bid to tackle the recruitment crisis and make NHS England 'self-sufficient' in doctors by the middle of the next decade.
eremy Hunt makes his way to the Conservative Party conference at the ICC in Birmingham. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to train up to 1,500 more doctors a year in a bid to tackle the recruitment crisis and make NHS England 'self-sufficient' in doctors by the middle of the next decade.

Mr Hunt will reform the current 6,000-a-year cap on students at medical schools, allowing numbers to grow by as much as a quarter.

And he will announce a new requirement for all doctors trained in the NHS to work in the health service for a minimum of four years after graduation.

The drive to boost doctor numbers is estimated to cost 100 million by 2020, but could sharply reduce the 1.2 billion a year spent on medical locums, many of them from overseas.

Reliance

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to train up to 1,500 more doctors a year in a bid to tackle the recruitment crisis and make NHS England 'self-sufficient' in doctors by the middle of the next decade.

 Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Jeremy Hunt makes his way to the Conservative Party conference at the ICC in Birmingham.
Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Hunt will reform the current 6,000-a-year cap on students at medical schools, allowing numbers to grow by as much as a quarter.

And he will announce a new requirement for all doctors trained in the NHS to work in the health service for a minimum of four years after graduation.

The drive to boost doctor numbers is estimated to cost £100 million by 2020, but could sharply reduce the £1.2 billion a year spent on medical locums, many of them from overseas.

Reliance on overseas doctors

NHS hospitals rely heavily on overseas doctors, who currently make up 25% of the medical workforce, and spend £3.3 billion a year on agency staff, including locums.

Speaking to the Conservative conference in Birmingham today, Mr Hunt is due to say: '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 be able 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?

'In September 2018, we will train up to 1,500 more doctors every year, increasing the number of medical school places by up to a quarter. Of course it will take a number of years before those doctors qualify, but by the end of the next Parliament we will make the NHS self-sufficient in doctors.'

Aspiring doctors will be able to apply for the new places from the 2017/18 academic year to start their courses in September 2018.

Money's worth

In order to ensure the taxpayer gets value from the £220,000 investment in each medical graduate, the government will for the first time, require each one to work for at least four years in the NHS, in a similar arrangement to that for graduates whose education is sponsored by the armed forces.

Mr Hunt will say that the cap currently forces universities to turn away half of those who apply to study medicine. Lifting it will ensure NHS England has the doctors it needs for the future, with hospitals expected to have to look after one million more over-75s within the next five years, he will say.

Falling short

British Medical Association council chairman Mark Porter said the extra training places fell 'far short of what is needed'.

'The government's poor workforce planning has meant 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.

Dr Porter added, 'This initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff' 

The chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, Maureen Baker, called for assurances that the boost for hospital doctors would be matched by measures to ensure sufficient numbers of family doctors, whose teams make up 90% of patient contacts in the NHS.

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