A total of 791 applicants are on the ‘reserve list’ for foundation training this year, after not being allocated a placement for FY1 – an increase of 300 on the previous highest total.
It is the highest number of medical graduates on the reserve list in the six years they have been recording numbers, according to the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO).
The UKFPO said it expects that all applicants on the reserve list will be allocated to a post following other applicants’ withdrawals ‘as in previous years’.
Experts have said that this has highlighted the problems of creating extra medical school places without increasing the number of training positions.
Currently, 8,209 posts are filled, including the extra spaces that were made for the 2022 Foundation Programme.
But 791 applicants have not been allocated a place, of which 393 (49.7%) are from UK medical schools.
The remaining number (50.3%) are ‘eligibility applicants’, meaning they have either graduated from a non-UK medical school or graduated from a UK medical school before August 2020.
Announcing this year’s allocation today, the UKFPO said: ‘The UKFPO can confirm that over 90% of applicants remaining in the process at the time of the national allocation have been successfully allocated to foundation schools, with 94% of primary list applicants being allocated to one of their top five preferences.’
But, on the 791 applicants on the reserve list this year, it added: ‘The UKFPO will be working closely with foundation schools and medical schools over the coming weeks to ensure suitable pastoral support is in place for reserve list applicants.’
‘It is expected that there will be applicant withdrawals shortly after the primary list allocation as experienced in previous years.
Year Number of applicants on the reserve list 2016 45 2017 25 2018 202 2019 425 2020 260 2021 494 2022 791
Deputy medical director at Health Education England (HEE) Professor Liz Hughes said: ‘There have been record numbers of applicants for the 2022 Foundation Programme. Although the statutory education bodies have increased the number of foundation posts available, we recognise that 791 students have been placed on the reserve list.
‘We have brought forward the reserve list allocation process so that reserve list applicants will be allocated their foundation school in April and all applicants will be placed in a foundation programme from August 2022.’
Writing on Twitter, Dr Steven Alderson, an anaesthetist, wrote: ‘When I worked at HEE, it was recognised at the very top that the opening of new medical schools and the rise of private medical schools would lead to oversubscription of F1. There was no plan to increase F1 places.
‘Instead, the plan was to create a national medical licensing exam which would allow candidates to be ranked. The NHS would get “only the very best”… What filtered down from the Department of Health was a desire to “liberalise” the medical labour market – particularly as more & more students paid their own way, via increasing fees.’
BMA medical students committee co-chair Khadija Meghrawi told Pulse: ‘We have made it clear to government that all medical graduates should be guaranteed foundation placements, but now we have a situation where a record number are left with unnecessary uncertainty about where they are headed this August.’
She added: ‘As medical students ourselves, we personally feel for our colleagues. Medicine requires resilience, and our future careers as doctors are a huge source of motivation for us to keep going. In a time where student mental health is declining, this additional source of uncertainty and anxiety is particularly unfair.’
BMA medical students committee co-chair Lara Akinnawonu told Pulse: ‘As the BMA pointed out at the time of the increase in medical school places from 2018, a solution to the disparity between medical school places and foundation school places is needed to avoid this problem worsening in future, and this year’s data makes this even starker.
‘The BMA will continue to lobby for more long-term solutions to this problem and work to guide students through this stressful time.’
It comes as the number of fully-qualified, full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs in England is continuing to drop, with the BMA warning the development is both unsafe and unsustainable.
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry which will examine whether the training period for doctors could be reduced, and if the cap on medical places for students could be permanently removed.