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At the heart of general practice since 1960

PAs and physios could study medicine part-time to boost doctor numbers

Nurses and physician associates could be given the chance to study for a medical degree part-time while working in the NHS, under education bosses’ plans to expand medical school places.

Members of the Health Education England board today set out ambitions to revolutionise the way medicine is taught in the NHS while boosting the GP workforce and tackling diversity issues.

This included recognition that if the NHS is serious about increasing GP numbers and shifting care into the community then the medical curriculum should be ‘steeped in’ general practice and community-based teaching.

Introducing the plans, HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming said: ‘It’s not rocket science. If the curriculum is steeped in teaching of mental health and general practice you get a much higher percentage of graduates who work in that area in future.'

The NHS is expanding the number of medical school places by 25%, around 1,500 more places a year in a bid to deliver the Government ambition of making the ‘NHS in England self-sufficient in doctors by 2025’.

Professor Cumming added that HEE wanted 'to see this as a real opportunity to take a step forward in innovation about how we teach medicine', including ‘the concept of part-time medical degrees.’

He said: ‘If you’re a physician associate, or a pharmacist, or a physiotherapist or a nurse, why can’t you work for two or three days a week in that role and study medicine for two or three days a week and gain your medical degree that way?’

At the meeting, HEE leaders said the scale of this expansion meant for the first time they could address the root cause of the workforce shortages experienced in parts of England and some specialties.

HEE director of education and quality Professor Wendy Reid said the NHS had lacked a focus on ‘local doctoring’.

But Professor Reid said that as typically around 50% of doctors stay in the region where they graduate, HEE wants future doctors being rooted in their community and local health systems.

She said: ‘If you look back at medical schools allocations in the past, they have been based on the researcher system… and the need for Nobel Prize winning academics. We don’t belittle that, but we have not failed to produce the academics, we never have.

'We have a huge reputation internationally but we have not addressed the issue of local doctoring.'

The Department of Health consultation on how these places should be allocated across medical schools closed last month.

While the DH has not provided its official response, HEE has been briefed on key criteria that medical schools should look to address when applying to expand their intake with some of the 1,000 new places funded in 2019/20.

HEE board papers said these include encouraging social mobility, meeting local workforce need, supporting shortage medical specialties and exploring new technologies and innovation.

The news comes as it was revealed this week that NHS England will look to expand its overseas GP recruitment programme from 500 to around 2,000 in a bid to try to achieve the Government's pledge of 5,000 extra GPs by 2020.

Readers' comments (29)

  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    My son is a final year medical student. He has heard so many dreadful stories from junior doctors of no work life balance, poor pay and impossible demands that he has started to look for a career outside of coal face medicine. We have enough people going through medical schools already. The problem is the job at the end is shit, solving that first might be a better priority than half baked ideas like this.

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  • we have not failed to produce the academics, we never have.

    What nonsense the quality of british medical science has nose dived over the last 30 years.

    Our top line output is minimal and the most impactful papers are either from british origin medical scientists who have left and are now working in the USA or European medics in the UK.

    The state of british biomedical research is fairly poor ( in comparison to where it was until the early 1980's).

    The rest of the article is fairly funny though!

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  • Part time medical degree?5-8-10+ year with the associated,fees+ costs.to get a GP from this over a decade of part time earning+ full time work at a time in a persons life when they should be living, family house carreer etc. 40+ when you are in your junior doctor years.How many years as a senor experience doctor,do you ever pay off your debt.NO work life balance just one long treadmill.This would not be attractive, but factor in at the end of it and you get a shirinking income, excessive work and risk would I take this on as a youngster who didnt get into med school.NO NO NO.

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  • Is there no end to the stupidity that spews forth from people who should know better?

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  • Hmmm, second class doctors for primary care, probably best just to continue to increase medical school intake and stop refusing entry to keen young people perfectly capable of doing the job. At least if they start young they will have the potential for a full career. Better this than 'upskilling' people who would not have been able to get in in the first place, do we really want to dumb down primary care.

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  • Just to be absolutely clear - from his various bios it seems that Professor Cumming does not possess a medical degree. He may find that accessing one although "not rocket science" is not quite so easy as he suggests.

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  • HEE-haw the donkey said:)

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  • I think we should all evaluate this idea properly rather than dismiss it. I know many excellent physios, nurses etc who would be excellent GPs in particular there are people out there who because of family commitments cannot contemplate going to do a medical degree fulltime but can complete it part-time. I have always felt there should be a way for professionals to become GPs via an "apprentice" route or a "certified accountant type route" where you work and learn on the job to become a GP where you work, study and gain experience on the job. We also need academics and all the rest but I think this is interesting way forward allowing many potential excellent GPs a way forward to achieve their aim.

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  • My job is so easy a plumber can do it- so We can charge as much or more than a plumber!!!

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  • Three Cs to get into Charing Cross in the late 1970s, BBC to go to Westminster, BCC for King's. I got ABC. Bristol wanted 3As even then and wouldn't look at anyone state educated. I was interviewed by some worthies and never a psychometric test in sight. Grade inflation has made this sort of thing impossible now. Thank goodness things are getting better and better every day. Wouldn't want to be young again.

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